Ethiopian Airlines Still Has Doubts About 737 MAX

Photo by AeroNewsX/Preston Fiedler.

Ethiopian Airlines has not yet decided whether to take more deliveries of the 737 MAX as Boeing completes revisions to the aircraft’s design. Tewolde Gebremariam, Chief Executive officer of Ethiopian Airlines, told reporters at the Dubai Airshow on Sunday that the airline is still evaluating Boeing's changes to the troubled jet. Boeing says it has revised the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (M.C.A.S) to prevent repeated dives and is waiting for the approval of U.S. and global regulators before putting the plane back into service which is expected early next year.

The Addis Ababa-based carrier has grounded its fleet of four Boeing 737 MAX jets after the model was involved in two fatal crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia within a span of five months that killed 346 people. Ethiopian Airlines and Boeing are also discussing the arrangements for compensation from the grounding of its MAX fleet, the CEO said.

Asked whether Ethiopian Airlines would take any further deliveries of the aircraft, of which it has more than 20 on order, Gebremariam said: “We have not yet decided.”

This came after Ethiopian Airlines held a press conference at the Airshow to announce a 787 services agreement. Asked if there was any fear in signing a deal with Boeing, Mr Gebremariam said the agreement involved their Boeing 787 internet connectivity being retrofitted and that the airline's trust in Boeing is still intact.

"Boeing is a 100 year-old high-quality engineering company, so we have to trust. We've been partners for the life of the airline, starting from McDonnell Douglas so it's a complex and long-time relationship," he said.

Asked for his views on Boeing's handling of the Max crisis and what the plane maker could have done differently, he said: "Its work in progress, so let's wait patiently and see the final return to service."

Ethiopian Airlines, whose fiscal year runs from July to June, has experienced good growth in the first half of the year, despite the grounding of its MAX fleet and a slowdown in air cargo volumes.

"It's not only the grounding, the market is slowing down, especially on the freighter and cargo market, but under those circumstances, it's been good," Mr. Gebremariam said.

Ethiopian Airlines expects its revenue and passenger traffic to grow in single-digits during the second half of the year, Mr. Gebremariam said.

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