Ethiopian Airlines unsure about buying more Boeing 737s

Ethiopian Airlines is still undecided on whether or not to purchase any more 737 MAX planes after a series of fatal crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia forced the jets to be grounded internationally, according to the airlines CEO.

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While Boeing has been working to finish modifications and corrections on the jet’s design and software, Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde Gebremariam told reporters at the Dubai Airshow on Sunday that “it is work in progress. Let’s wait patiently and see the final return to service.”

A March 10 crash on a Lion Air 737 MAX in Ethiopia left a total of 346 people dead after an automated component of the jet mistakenly caused the planes’ nose to continuously point downward following take-off, according to investigations into the accident.

Meanwhile, Boeing is awaiting approval from regulators after adjusting the jets’ software to fix the issue, which likely won’t occur until early next year.

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Gebremariam told reporters that although Ethiopian Airlines already has over 20 737 MAXs on order, the airline’s CEO was noncommittal on future purchases.

“We have not yet decided,” he said.

Airplane parts lie on the ground at the scene of an Ethiopian Airlines flight crash near Bishoftu, or Debre Zeit, south of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Monday, March 11, 2019. A spokesman says Ethiopian Airlines has grounded all its Boeing 737 Max 8 aircra (AP)

Incidentally, Gebremariam had just signed a different contract with Boeing to add internet connection to the airline’s 787 Dreamliners before speaking with reporters on Sunday, and said he would not hesitate to sign another agreement with Boeing, which he described as “more than 100 years old and a high-quality engineering company.”

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However, the recent spate of crashes have caused a bit of a rift between Ethiopian Airlines and Boeing, saying the relationship is a “work in progress. Let’s wait patiently and see the final return to service.”

In the meantime, as Boeing sorts out the 737s ongoing software and mechanical problems, Gebremariam may look to continue orders for Airbus A350s from Boeing’s competitor.

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“We have an order of 24, so depending on the market need, we will increase,” he added.