(eTN) – Boeing’s latest delay on the first delivery of the Dreamliner turned into a development nightmare, has caused consternation among the East African airline market leaders Kenya Airways (KQ) and Ethiopian Airlines (ET). An electrical fire during a test flight last year prompted all further flights to be halted until the cause of the malfunction had been satisfactorily explained, but subsequently, the test schedule and delivery schedule of the first B787 had to be revised again to the dismay of customers. As before, Boeing was slow in making the details available to their clientele and again are under scrutiny as to why they took so long to own up to the added problems. Observer talk has it that another 6 month delay in on the cards for launch customer ANA, with other airlines having to wait even longer.
Both KQ and ET have a number of planes of this type on order and were, in fact, initially planning to already fly the new aircraft and replace their present ageing B767 fleets.
Ethiopian signed a major order with Airbus last year in a clear message to Boeing, and with the latest delay, it is now increasingly likely that they may switch the 787 order into 777s to bridge the gap or else seek additional Airbus aircraft being leased or bought as a stop-gap measure.
At Kenya Airways, an announcement is now equally thought imminent of an order for the Airbus A330, again to facilitate network expansion and added frequencies to existing destinations, where the present workhorse B767 aircraft is either becoming too small or else has, in comparison with the A330 at least, become too cost intensive to operate. All B767s of Kenya Airways, were they to remain in service for a longer period of time, would require major retrofitting and upgrades, and unless Boeing is footing most or all of these bills they are bound to see Airbus make greater inroads into the East African skies.
A source at Kenya Airways commented off the record: “This is another disappointment for us. We had hoped to have the 787 flying by now, and we don’t even have a concrete date as of now when we might get the first 787. Management may have to convert this order to the larger 777 aircraft but a lot now points towards the acquisition of Airbus models to help us grow the way we have mapped out the next few years. Aviation fuel is also getting expensive again, so we need aircraft which consume less per seat kilometer.”