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Ethiopian Air Seeks Fleet Upgrade as It Studies U.S. West Coast

Ethiopian Airlines Enterprise is looking to add single-aisle and wide-body planes to feed an expansion as it studies Los Angeles, Madrid and Jakarta for future destinations, its chief executive officer said.

The airline has asked Airbus Group, Boeing Co. and Bombardier Inc. for proposals for the purchase of 10 to 20 single-aisle planes, and is also considering twin-aisle planes, either the Boeing 777X or Airbus’s A350, of which it has already ordered 14, CEO Tewolde Gebre Mariam said today.

The Addis Ababa-based airline has 62 aircraft in its fleet, including 13 Boeing 737 new-generation planes and five 787 Dreamliners and wants to increase its stable in part to replace older Boeing 767s on lease and to expand across the globe, Gebre Mariam said in an interview at an aircraft finance conference sponsored by Airline Economics in Dublin.

“We’ve got Tokyo, Shanghai and Vienna coming this summer, and we’re studying flights to the West Coast, to Los Angeles,” he said. In the U.S., the airline already serves Washington with its large Ethiopian population, the CEO said.

In the single-aisle category, the airline is looking at Boeing’s 737 Max, Airbus’s A320neo, and also Bombardier’s CSeries. Gebre Mariam said it would be difficult to run a mixed-fleet of both Boeing and Airbus single-aisle planes, as there is no commonality in pilot training or spare parts.

“We’ll have to see what’s in the proposals,” he said. The airline needs new single-aisle airliners from 2015 or 2016. Airbus has said its A320neos are sold out until about 2019. Boeing’s first 737 Max aircraft are set to begin service in 2017.

Of the 12 Boeing 767s operated by Ethiopian, three are owned and the rest is leased. Gebre Mariam said he wants to replace the older leased planes with either 787s or Airbus A330s, which he would also lease.


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