In a departure from previous practice, Ethiopian Airlines has confirmed 12 orders for the A350-900, presently under development by Airbus and thought to rival, if not outshine, the B787 in terms of operating cost and performance.
Until now, it was considered almost impossible for Airbus to break the Boeing monopoly that they have enjoyed with Ethiopian Airlines, but the ongoing and further delays for the delivery of the B787 Dreamliner – now often dubbed “Boeing’s nightmare” – seems to have tipped the scales for ET to take steps to remedy the situation.
However, Boeing still got an order for 5 B777-200LR, presently the manufacturer’s largest twin-engine jet and a proven performer vis-a-vis the ageing B767s, which Ethiopian is keen to phase out to save on operating costs.
No information has been received yet from Kenya Airways, also wanting to replace their B767 fleet, on which way they intend to go over their delayed B787 order, but it is worth noticing that both airlines also operate approved maintenance organizations dedicated to Boeing aircraft, which would make a complete switch to Airbus models rather more challenging.
However, as Qatar’s CEO said last week, it is time for Boeing to get serious now or else “heads have to roll.”
No information could be obtained, however, about the fate of the Ethiopian Airlines order for the B787 – whether a formal cancellation notice had been issued, if the order had been deferred, or if the B777 order was a trade off between ET and Boeing.
Airbus has now sold just below 500 of their latest addition to their aircraft family, although the A350 has also been dogged with delays, although not as substantial as the one’s encountered by Boeing with their B787.