Ethiopian Airlines could buy 10-20 of Boeing’s proposed mid-sized jet

A worker services an Ethiopian Airlines plane at the Bole International Airport in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa. Image courtesy: Reuters/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

Ethiopian Airlines would be interested in buying around 10 to 20 of the mid-sized jets that Boeing is studying whether to develop, the African airline’s chief executive said on Tuesday.

Boeing is looking at potentially filling a market gap between narrow and wide-body jets with a new aircraft that could seat 220 to 270 passengers.

Ethiopian Chief Executive Tewolde Gebremariam said the airline was interested in a replacement for the out-of-production Boeing 757.

“It is a very right size, and right range for the missions we have, especially [for] the altitude in Addis [Ababa] airport,” he told reporters at the Dubai Airshow.

Boeing stopped producing the 757 in 2005, after delivering 1,049 of the jets, known for their powerful engines that allow them to take-off on short runways and can carry 200 passengers in a typical two-class configuration.

Industry sources have said they expect a commercial launch from Boeing of the new mid-sized jet next year. It would enter service in 2024 or 2025 as Boeing attempts to leapfrog the hot-selling Airbus A321neo.

Gebremariam also said Ethiopian Airlines would decide next year whether to buy Bombardier’s CSeries or Brazil-based Embraer’s E-jet series as a replacement for Boeing’s 737-7.

“In the interest of fleet commonality we want to explore possibilities of remaining with the [737] MAX,” he added.

Ethiopian Airlines ordered two Boeing 777 freighters, and exercised options for a further two, in a deal worth $1.3 billion at list prices, at the Dubai Airshow on Tuesday.