Ethiopian Airlines is doubling down on Boeing’s 737 MAX, ordering 20 of the controversial planes at the Dubai Airshow.

Despite a dark history, with a fatal crash in 2019 that claimed 157 lives, the airline sees potential, even eyeing 21 more jets.

The continent’s largest carrier is also beefing up their fleet with 11 787 Dreamliners, solidifying their position as the largest Boeing operator in Africa.

Post-tragedy, Ethiopian Airlines affirms that Boeing has rectified the 737 MAX’s design flaws, showing confidence in their decision.

“We are pleased to announce that Ethiopian Airlines has reached a deal with Boeing to place a firm order for 31 ultra-modern airplanes, with opportunity for 36 additional jets,” said Ethiopian Airlines Group CEO Mr Mesfin Tasew.

“This order will enable us to modernise and increase our fleet in support of Ethiopian Airlines’ growth plan and our Vision 2035 Strategy. Through this deal, we have solidified our decades-old exemplary business partnership with Boeing.

The 787 Dreamliner and 737 MAX demonstrate Ethiopian Airlines’ environmentally conscious decisions and its commitment to serve passengers with the latest technologically advanced airplanes.”

Ethiopian is ordering the 787-9 variant, part of a Dreamliner family that reduces fuel use and emissions by 25 percent compared to the airplanes it replaces.

Ethiopian Airline Aircraft. Photo (ET)
Ethiopian Airline Aircraft. Photo (ET)

The carrier is also adding the 737-8 model, which reduces fuel use and emissions by 20 percent and creates a 50 percent smaller noise footprint compared to the airplanes it replaces. Both families bring better environmental performance and passenger comfort to their respective markets.

The new commitment positions Ethiopian Airlines to further strengthen and diversify its fleet, which currently includes more than 80 Boeing jets.

Ethiopian operates Africa’s largest Dreamliner fleet with a mix of 787-8s and 787-9s. The new 737 MAX order, which will grow the airline’s backlog for the fuel-efficient jet to 50, will be posted on Boeing’s Orders & Deliveries website when finalised.

Boeing and Ethiopian Airlines also agreed to work together to provide cabin modification services for the carrier’s existing 787 Dreamliners.

The comprehensive retrofits will enhance the passenger experience with advanced in-flight entertainment and new seats in all cabins, including lie-flat business-class seats from Boeing joint venture Adient Aerospace.

“Ethiopian Airlines continues its leadership as one of Africa’s preeminent airlines with this landmark commitment to expand their 787 and 737 MAX fleets,” said Brad McMullen, Boeing senior vice president of Commercial Sales and Marketing.

“Ethiopian was the first African airline to take delivery of the 787, and the Dreamliner family continues to play an integral role in its long-haul fleet.