Ethiopian places $2.1bln order for Boeing 737s

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Addis Ababa, 22 September 2014 (WIC) – Ethiopian Airlines, Africa’s largest carrier by revenue, agreed to buy 20 redesigned 737 models valued at $2.1 billion in the largest single order for Boeing (BA) Co. planes from the continent.

The order for the single-aisle Max 8, the first of four redesigned 737 models, comes with an option for an additional 15 planes, the companies said today in a statement.

The Boeing model will be a key component of the Addis Ababa-based carrier’s 15-year plan to expand its business to carry 18 million passengers a year, Ethiopian Airlines Chief Executive Officer Tewolde Gebremariam said during a tourism forum in Chicago.

“The African market has had a lot of great potential, but service has been a problem,” Richard Aboulafia, an aerospace consultant with Fairfax, Virginia-based Teal Group, said in a telephone interview from Washington.

“There are strong signs of improvement, led by Ethiopian and other airlines. This order shows a commitment to operate the most modern jets on domestic and intra-African routes.”

The order had been announced previously on Boeing’s orders and deliveries website, without identifying the airline.

Boeing’s Max 8 is due to enter service in 2017 and is being outfitted with new engines from a General Electric Co. joint venture.

Ryanair Holdings Plc (RYA) announced earlier this month that it would buy as many as 200 of the higher-capacity Max 200 model from the Chicago-based plane maker, with deliveries set to begin in 2019. (Bloomberg)

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