Ethiopian Airlines orders Airbus A350s worth $3b

DUBAI - Ethiopian Airlines, a long-time Boeing customer, has ordered 12 Airbus A350 XWB jetliners worth $3 billion at catalogue prices, executives from the two companies said on Sunday.

By Bruce Stanley

Published: Sun 15 Nov 2009, 7:14 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 8:25 AM

The deal is the biggest announced on the opening day of the Dubai Airshow so far, though Airbus chief salesman John Leahy told a news conference, amid laughter, that Ethiopian “refused to pay catalogue prices.”

Carriers usually secure discounts for large orders of new aircraft, especially for planes such as the A350 that are still in production.

Ethiopian will take delivery of its long-range A350s starting in 2017, its Chief Executive Officer Girma Wake told the conference.

Ethiopian currently flies 33 jet planes, all of them Boeings. The order for wide-body A350s marks a breakthrough for Airbus with one of Africa’s most well-regarded carriers.

Ethiopian decided to diversify its all-Boeing fleet for several reasons, Wake told Khaleej Times after the announcement. One of the most important was simply to reduce its reliance on a single supplier.

“It’s always wise to put your eggs in different baskets,” he said.

“We had been looking at the A350 for quite some time,” but the plane’s original design was not such a good fit for the airline, Wake explained. “Then what happened is Airbus went back to the drawing board and made a big improvement.”

Airbus redesigned the A350 after its initial design met with a mixed reaction from prospective buyers.

Operating a mixed fleet of Boeings and Airbuses can be an advantage for a carrier as large as Ethiopian, Wake said, adding that the airline might want to lease some A350s before the 2017 delivery date.

With the sale to Ethiopian, Airbus has taken orders for at total of 505 fuel-efficient A350s, the plane-maker said.

Airbus President and Chief Executive Officer Tom Enders acknowledged that the aviation industry is in a funk as a result of the global recession.

He told the conference that business conditions for the next two years are likely to remain “quite challenging.” However, he noted that aviation is still a growth industry and added: “There’s no question we’ll get through this.”

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