Ethiopian Airlines this week announced it is selling five Fokker 50 and three decommissioned Boeing 757-200ER passenger aircraft in order to meet strict safety regulations set by the European Union, and increase revenue for the carrier.
The 54-seat Fokker 50s have been in service with Ethiopian for more than 15 years and are being replaced by eight Bombardier Q400 NextGen turboprops, which were bought at a cost of US$242 million in November 2008. The first Q400 arrived in March last year.
The state-owned carrier has put the Fokkers up for sale and has invited interested parties to enter into negotiations. “The airline is already conducting direct negotiations with several domestic and foreign potential buyers to sell off these aircraft,” said Henok Tefera, an official at Ethiopian, AllAfrica reports.
Ethiopian’s 757s are ageing and are due to be replaced by the oft-delayed 787 Dreamliner. On April 5 last year, a 757-200 flying from Addis Ababa to Rome Fiumicino experienced a hydraulic failure related to the landing gear. The aircraft landed safely but the flight was delayed for 17 hours whilst the problem was fixed.
Ethiopian has around 40 aircraft on its order book, including ten Boeing 787 Dreamliners, 12 Airbus A350s, five Boeing 777s, ten Boeing 737s and eight Bombardier Q400s. Ethiopian was the first African airline to order the 787 when it did so in February 2005. Ethiopian expects the first two Dreamliners to arrive in January next year.
Ethiopian Airlines initiated an extensive fleet renewal project early in the millennium, something which is improving the safety and reliability of the carrier. Many African airlines have had operations disrupted due to safety concerns – the European Union on April 20 banned 269 carriers from 23 countries from flying in European airspace, citing safety concerns. Of these, 151 carriers are from 15 African nations.
A further motivation for selling the out of service aircraft is to improve fuel economy and raise cash. 39% of Ethiopian’s spending went to the rising cost of fuel, according to its nine-month report released earlier this month. This is up 67% from the same period last year. “The competition is not healthy, especially from the Middle East, as the carriers’ fuel are subsidised,” Henok said. “This is the context in which we are operating.”