Ethiopian Airlines is close to agreeing on a deal with Airbus over the purchase of as many as 20 narrow-body A220 planes worth more than $1.6 billion.
The national carrier’s talks with the aircraft manufacturer are reported to be in the latter stages, and should be completed by end of the year, according to Bloomberg.
“It’s a good airplane — we have been studying it long enough,” Chief Executive Officer Tewolde GebreMariam said on Thursday.
The 100-seater aircraft costs $81 million according to a 2018 price list.
The order of the planes would be Ethiopian Airlines’ first since the fatal crash in March that killed 157 people.
With a total operating fleet of 120 aircrafts, Ethiopian Airlines is Africa’s biggest and most consistently profitable carrier.
Other than the A220 order, the carrier has already placed orders for 53 more planes, including 11 Airbus A350-900XWB, 9 Bombardier Q400, 6 Boeing B787-900 and 27 Boeing B737 MAX 8s.
The MAX 8 order, however, remains clouded by uncertainty following the model’s grounding by most airlines around the world following the March crash which occurred just six minutes after the Ethiopian Airlines plane left Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa.
Tewolde said Ethiopian Airlines would be the last to resume operation of the of the MAX 8.
“It’s only natural for us to be the last one to decide on the Max,” the CEO said. “If we’re convinced the problems are fully addressed, and that the re-certification is done in a collaborative manner with all regulators, then we will take the time, effort and energy to convince our pilots, crew and passengers that the aircraft is safe to get back in the air.”