Now that Ethiopian Airlines has successfully put the first of two 737-800SFs into regional service, the carrier is nearing an order for two more of the aircraft type, sources close to the carrier tell Cargo Facts.
Although a deal has not yet been inked, Ethiopian Cargo is expected to soon finalize a deal for two additional AEI-converted 737-800SFs to support the continued growth of its intra-Africa network. At present, ET’s 737-800SFs are used on short-haul routes that are within a four-hour range from the carrier’s Addis Ababa (ADD) hub – to destinations in East, Central and West Africa. Before the freighters were added, many of the routes now served with the -800SFs were limited to bellyhold capacity on narrowbody passenger aircraft. Increased demand for perishable exports, however, has justified freighter capacity to accommodate larger volumes.
See also: Ethiopian Cargo’s first freighter
As the launch operator for AEI’s 737-800 conversion program, Ethiopian Cargo took delivery of its first 737-800SF (29121) on lease from GECAS in March of this year [FATs 004794-4795]. Shortly after, it added a second, unit 32613 [FAT 004817]. Any additional 737-800Fs will likely be converted by AEI and leased from GECAS, which has outstanding orders and options for eighteen more 737-800SF conversions.
Further orders for additional freighters are expected in the coming years. The carrier previously forecasted as part of its Vision 2025 plan that its freighter fleet will grow to nineteen units over the next five years. Earlier this month, Ethiopian Airlines took delivery of its tenth 777F, which combined with the two 737-800SFs brings the fleet size to twelve units with no outstanding orders for more freighters. Cargo Facts expects ET Cargo to continue expanding its narrowbody freighter fleet beyond four units. Additional 777F orders are also likely under consideration.