Ethiopian Airlines has become Africa’s first airline customer of Airbus’ flagship A350-1000 aircraft. The carrier confirmed that it has upsized four of its existing Airbus A350-900s on order to the larger -1000 variant.
This is not the first time that Ethiopian Airlines has debuted an aircraft in Africa – it was also the first African airline to operate the A350-900 when it took delivery of the type in June 2016.
Today, the Star Alliance member boasts 18 A350-900s in its fleet of 121 passenger aircraft, and it will take delivery of two more A350-900s, in addition to the four A350-1000s. This makes Ethiopian Airlines the joint six-largest operator of the A350-900, together with Air China and Air France. The list is topped by Singapore Airlines, with 53 A350-900s and 7 A350-900ULRs in its fleet.
While the aircraft manufacturer did not provide a timeframe for the deliveries, Airbus celebrated the agreement with Ethiopian Airlines, with its President – Africa and Middle East, Mikail Houari, stating,
“We are proud of our strong partnership with Ethiopian Airlines – the first airline in Africa to order and operate the A350-900. In another first, Ethiopian Airlines is once again leading the way in Africa’s aviation sector by introducing the A350-1000, the largest version of the world’s most efficient and technologically advanced passenger aircraft.”
Designed to compete with Boeing’s 777-300ER and 777-9, the A350-1000 is the largest variant of the A350 family, measuring 74 meters in length. Qatar Airways was the type’s launch customer, operating the first commercial flight in February 2018.
For several years prior to the pandemic, Ethiopian Airlines was on an impressive growth trajectory, which saw it become the largest airline in Africa by both passengers carried and by destinations served, ahead of Egyptair and Royal Air Maroc.
The airline’s recovery from the pandemic has been strong, and it once again operates an extensive route network of over 130 destinations across five continents. Ethiopian Airlines recently announced its 16th European destination, with fifth-freedom flights to Zurich being tagged onto its Milan-Malpensa services from October 31st. The carrier will also commence flights to Amman on September 19th.
The Airbus A350 is the ideal choice to drive this recovery – with its carbon-fiber fuselage and wings, and fuel-efficient Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines, the aircraft offers a 25% reduction in fuel-burn and CO2 emissions compared to previous twin-aisle aircraft.