By Victor Shalton
Ethiopian Airlines Expands Air Cargo Fleet with Boeing Agreement
Ethiopian Airlines has agreed to buy up to 5 of Boeing’s new 777X freighter jets — with the carrier launching the plane during a boom in air cargo.
The airline will also become the second carrier to operate the recently launched freighter and Boeing’s newest plane whose development has faced delays, declining customer orders for the passenger model and regulatory snags amid airlines’ broader shift toward smaller jets designed to fly on longer, direct routes.
The order will enable Ethiopian Airlines to meet expanding global air cargo demand from its hub in Addis Ababa and position the carrier for long-term growth.
Tewolde Gebremariam, Chief Executive Officer of Ethiopian Airlines Group, said, “In our vision 2035, we are planning to expand our Cargo and Logistics business to be one of the largest global multimodal logistics providers in all continents, to this effect, we are increasing our dedicated freighter fleet with the latest technology, fuel-efficient and environment-friendly airplanes of the 21st century. We have also started the construction of the largest E-commerce Hub Terminal in Africa.
Ethiopian Airlines currently operates nine 777 freighters. The carrier’s fleet also includes three Boeing 737-800s converted freighters and a combined commercial fleet of more than 80 jets including Boeing 737s, Boeing 767s, Boeing 787 Dreamliners and Boeing 777s.
“The new 777-8 Freighters will be instrumental in this long journey of growth agenda. Today, our air cargo services cover more than 120 international destinations around the world with both belly hold capacity and dedicated Freighter services,” Gebremariam added.
Boeing launched the new 777-8 freighter in January with Qatar Airways as the launch customer. Qatar Airways ordered 34 of the aircraft with options for a further 16 in a deal that is valued at more than $20bn based on list prices.
According to Boeing, their 777-8 twin-engine freighter features advanced technology from the new 777X family and the performance of the 777 freighters. With payload capacity nearly identical to the 747-400 freighter and a 30% improvement in fuel efficiency, emissions and operating costs, the 777-8 freighter is expected to enable a more sustainable and profitable business for operators.
Ethiopian Airlines has partnered with International Djibouti Industrial Park Operation (IDIPO) and Air Djibouti as it looks to develop sea-air operations between China and Africa.
Based on a strategic agreement signed between the parties, cargo will be transported from China to Djibouti Free Zone by sea and will then be transported to Djibouti International Airport for onward transportation by air. Typically, Sea-air services are pitched as being less expensive than a pure air cargo operation but faster than pure sea transport.
According to Ethiopian, the new multimodal logistics solution will enable African businesses, multinational companies, Chinese companies and other business people to enhance their supply chain management system with the best combination of speed, cost and quality services.
“The markets of China and Africa are highly complementary and the partnership has huge potential in facilitating cost and time-efficient logistics solutions for African traders,” the carrier said. “As the world’s production base, China is the largest supplier, while Africa with a population of 1.3bn people has huge market demand. China has been Africa’s largest trading partner with a trade volume of $254bn in 2021.”