Youngest African airline fleet expecting Dreamliner

Seven received and three to go – that is the story of Ethiopian Airlines’ (ET) taking delivery of the world’s presently most advanced aircraft, the Boeing B787 Dreamliner, the first airline in A

Youngest African airline fleet expecting Dreamliner

Seven received and three to go – that is the story of Ethiopian Airlines’ (ET) taking delivery of the world’s presently most advanced aircraft, the Boeing B787 Dreamliner, the first airline in Africa to get this revolutionary new bird and the one with the largest fleet at present which by the end of 2014 will have grown to 10 such aircraft.

ET’s CEO Tewolde Gebremariam was quoted in the media to have said when welcoming the new bird home: “As Africa’s flagship carrier, Ethiopian has always been and remains aviation technology leader in the continent by availing the most advanced aircraft to its esteemed customers. We currently have the youngest fleet in Africa with an average age of 7 years. In line with our 15 year strategic roadmap of fast, profitable and sustainable growth, Vision 2025, we will continue to expand and modernize our fleet in order to continue to provide maximum comfort to our customers.”

Serving some 80 destinations worldwide from their hub at Addis Ababa’s Bole International Airport, the new aircraft type has played a major role in increasing flight frequencies and destinations as the battle for supremacy in Africa rages on. Ethiopian has been adding destinations of late, Vienna being a case in point and being the one of three Star Alliance members with the geographical advantage of hub location, serves to connect Star members traffic via Addis Ababa to the rest of Africa.

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Meanwhile, across the border in Nairobi, Kenya Airways has been making headway in playing catch up with the Pan African carrier by rolling out an impressive Africa network and by adding more destinations, albeit still with a smaller fleet and less global cities served at this moment in time.

Unlike Ethiopian, however, Kenya Airways will progressively retire their aged B767-300 fleet and as 5 more of their Dreamliners arrive this year to join “The Great Rift Valley,” and three more early next year, their B767s will be returned to the lessors or sold, unlike at Ethiopian, where this much more expensive to operates and less and less appealing aircraft type will remain in service until about 2018.

Commented a Kenya aviator when asked about the pros and cons of this decision: “I think ET just has to keep those birds flying after investing in some blended winglets to reduce fuel burn. But mainly I think it is to keep their fleet numbers up to be able to serve their expanded network while KQ [Kenya Airways] resisted this temptation and simply will replace the old birds with the new B787s. Perhaps the way things have been going in Kenya this is the right choice, in hindsight at least, but it puts the two strategies up for comparison, and personally I prefer the KQ way, because it gives passengers a fleet which is younger and better and more fuel efficient. Better wait a little longer and be patient with the rollout, which by 2021, going by their strategic plan, will anyway be at level par then.”

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