The First Ethiopian 787 Delivered: ‘It’s Time for Africa’
EVERETT, Wash. – “It’s time for Africa.” Those were the words of Ethiopian CEO Ato Tewolde Gebremariam as Boeing and Ethiopian Airlines celebrated the delivery of the first Boeing 787 Dreamliner to an African carrier. The Addis Ababa-based airline cut the ribbon in front of their first 787 aircraft dubbed “Africa First” today in front of a crowd of dozens of invited guests.
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Mr. Gebremariam spoke specifically about his excitement for the possibilities that this offers to Africa as a continent. Too often, he remarked, the issues of African poverty, famine, disease, etc. are highlighted in the western media. The fact that an African Nation-State now has a state-of-the-art plane should indicate that “it is time for Africa.”
The Ethiopian CEO also addressed the delays that have plagued the 787 program. In 2005, Ethiopian Airlines signed a contract for a firm order of 10 airplanes, the first of which was delivered today, five years late. However, Mr. GebreMariam brushed off the delay noting that, “as the saying goes, all good things come to those who only wait.”
On the aircraft, Ethiopian will offer two classes of service – Business and Economy. As this is an international plane, all seats were equipped with in-flight entertainment. The cabin was light and airy, in large part due to the new Boeing Sky interior and the 787s enlarged windows. It also features LED lighting. In Business class—known as Cloud Nine—Ethiopian eliminated the central overhead bins, giving an open feel to the already spacious cabin. Another subtle addition to business class from our previous review are the power ports at each seat, designed for both African and US AC plugs.
This plane departs Seattle tomorrow from Snohomish County Airport/Paine Field (KPAE) at 0630PT tomorrow. It will fly to Dulles International Airport (KIAD) before continuing on to its final destination at Addis Ababa Bole International Airport (HAAB) in Ethiopia, where it will begin regular revenue service.
UPDATE 8/15 11:23pm EST – Ethiopian Airlines continued their Boeing 787 Dreamliner delivery tour today, flying the aircraft from Seattle to Washington Dulles. Cheers erupted through the aircraft as the wheels greased the runway, capping a four hour initial flight en route to its home base, Addis Ababa.
During a press conference following the flight CEO Ato Tewold Gebremariam announced that the aircraft would begin serving Washington Dulles later this year, with service to Guangzhou China to follow as new aircraft are added to the fleet. In the interim, the African carrier will first be flying the aircraft in and around destinations in Africa. No solid dates on the start of regular Addis-DC service have been set.
UPDATE 8/17 1:18PM EST - The first Ethiopian Boeing 787 Dreamliner touched down in Addis Ababa at 08:58AM local time (east coast -7) capping a delivery trek spanning two days from Seattle.
Hundreds of red, yellow, and green umbrellas crowded the ramp as the airplane “Africa First” rolled out under a heavy rain. While the airplane taxied to a remote stand, operations at Bole International ground to a halt as throngs of employees stopped to watch history being made. Once the chocks were in place the crowd rushed the airplane in anticipation and joy as Ethiopian brass and government ministers along with VIP and regular passengers began to deboard.
CEO Ato Tewolde hammered home similar remarks made during previous stops in Washington state and Washington DC in a standing room only press conference following arrival. “As a continent this shows how much we are making progress as Africans…competing on the global stage and changing our image.” Other speakers included airline board chairman Addisu Legesse and minister of transport Deriba Kuma, whom both lauded the success of Ethiopian during a time of turmoil in the global air industry.
At an invitation only dinner later that same evening, held at the African Union headquarters conference hall downtown, the party continued where it left off at Bole earlier that morning. Dinner and dancing were the main themes of the evening, featuring a mix of Ethiopian and Westernized fare along with regional music from live performers. Large Boeing 787 models in ETH livery adorned each table, and were quickly snapped up as the event began to wind down.
As reported earlier by NYCA, the aircraft will fly a VIP scenic demo flight from Addis to circle around Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania tomorrow. It is slated to begin service to Nairobi, Kenya on Sunday.
NYCA correspondents Nate Strong in Seattle, Cary Liao in Washington, and Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren in Addis Ababa contributed to this report.