Ethiopian Airlines is set to become the first airline to operate Boeing’s new cutting-edge 787 Dreamliner on the Mother Continent.
A week from today, about the middle of lunch hour, an Ethiopian Airlines flight will push back from its gate in the main terminal at Washington Dulles international Airport, taxi out to the runway and take off, bound for Ethiopia.
When it arrives at 9 o’clock the following morning at Bole International Airport in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, it will have made history.
Because the aircraft making that flight will be one of Boeing’s new state-of-the-art 787 Dreamliners, the first to be operated in and from Africa.
That will be the flight that formally delivers the Dreamliner to EA. Regular service is set to begin some time in the fall.
It’s fitting that Ethiopian be the first African airline to fly the Dreamliner, since it claims the honor of being the first airline to bring jet airline service to Africa back in 1963.
The 787 may not be the biggest nor the fastest airliner coming into service, but it still figures to be a travel game changer, especially for the Mother Continent.
Where the now-retired Concorde supersonic transport was all about speed and the Airbus A380 super-jumbo jet is all about size and passenger capacity, the Dreamliner is all about range, i.e., how far you can fly without needing refueling stops, which eat up both passenger time and airline profits.
Ethiopian already is flying the extended-range versions of Boeing’s 777 jumbo jet, enabling it to reach virtually any major city in the world on one tank of gas. The Dreamliner, made super-light with the wide-scale use of composites instead of aluminum, is designed to go farther still.
Like I said, game changer.
Airbus is furiously pushing ahead with its own ultra-light long-distance jet, the A350 XWB, but it’s not due to come online for another two years. Until then, Boeing will have the long-range airline field pretty much to itself, and Ethiopian will be the first African airline in the game.
That’s important, especially when you remember this week’s African visit by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in which she pushed for more US-Africa trade.
Right now, the only African airline flying directly between the United States and the Mother Continent is South African Airways. On the other side of the Atlantic, only two US-based airlines are flying to Africa, Delta and United.
If the US and African nations are serious about stepping up trade between them, both business and leisure travelers need to be able to move more easily and cheaply back and forth.
As more major African airlines like Kenya Airways and Nigeria’s Arik Air acquire their own Dreamliners, African carriers will have a greater ability to connect with North America.
If America’s airlines aren’t willing to fly to the Mother Continent, Washington should encourage Ethiopian, KA and Arik to pick up the slack.
Edited by P.A.Rice
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