Ethiopian Defers A220 Decision Following Airbus Acquisition

 - August 20, 2018, 12:01 PM
Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde GebreMariam extols the virtues of the interior of the airline's first Boeing 737 Max 8. (Photo: Daniel Getachew)

Ethiopian Airlines has suspended its planned order for at least 20 examples of the former Bombardier C Series following Airbus’s acquisition and renaming of the program now known as the A220. The airline engaged in an evaluation of the former Bombardier program for more than two years. However, now that the European airframer controls the program’s marketing, Ethiopian has decided to wait to gain a better understanding of Airbus’s plans.

“The C series is a very good airplane. We have been evaluating it for a long time,” Ethiopian Airlines Group CEO Tewolde GebreMariam told AIN. “Our engineers, pilots, technicians, and economists have studied the aircraft and confirmed that it is fit for purpose for our mission especially in the 100-seat category.”

But just as Ethiopian concluded its evaluation, Airbus acquired the majority of the program and renamed the aircraft the A220. “The new owner has a new marketing strategy,” said GebreMariam. “Thus we decided to give it time and see how the process is going to evolve.” The chief executive did not say whether or not pricing played into the decision to wait.

Ethiopian Airlines operates 23 Bombardier Q400s and awaits delivery of 10 more in its order book. Now, due to the acquisition of the C Series by Airbus, the airline has begun studying whether or not the Boeing 737 Max aircraft on order could eventually fit into the regional route network on which it intended the C Series to operate.

“We are closely studying the market if it can continue to grow to the level of the Boeing 737 Max, which is a 160-seater,” said GebreMariam, referring to the Max 8. “With the fast growth that we see in the African continent this market may grow to that level and we may not need to add additional complexity with a new model aircraft and the additional need for training of pilots and technicians.” 

Ethiopian Airlines last month took delivery of the first of 30 Max 8s it had ordered. Currently, the airline has a fleet of more than 100 aircraft, including Boeing 787-8s, 787-9s, 777s, and Airbus A350-900s.