AFRICA’S booming aviation industry reached another landmark in August when Ethiopian Airlines became the first carrier outside Japan to operate the Boeing 787 Dreamliner (pictured), a state-of-the-art passenger jet. The introduction of the 787 to African skies could transform the nature of air travel across the continent—and even worldwide.
With its lightweight carbon-composite wings and fuselage, the 787 is 20% more fuel-efficient than the similar-sized Boeing 767, an existing industry workhorse. In a world where fuel typically accounts for around 30% of an airline’s total costs, such efficiency is extremely attractive, and Ethiopian has ordered ten planes.
The carrier’s arch-rivals, Kenya Airways and Nigeria’s Arik Air, have not stood idly by: they have ordered nine and seven of the 787s respectively. But theirs won’t be delivered for years, as severe supply-chain delays mean Boeing’s backlog of the Dreamliner has reached an eye-watering 841 planes. In the meantime, Ethiopian can enjoy the significant cost advantages that accrue from being among the 787’s first operators.