Etihad Airways is to become the biggest operator of Boeing's 787-9 Dreamliner after signing a deal to buy 10 of the fuel-efficient aircraft.
Etihad strikes $2.8bn Dream deal
Etihad Airways is set to become the largest operator of Boeing's fuel-efficient 787-9 Dreamliner after ordering 10 of the aircraft and two 777 freighters from the plane maker in a deal valued at US$2.8 billion (Dh10.28bn) at list prices.
In addition to the 787-9s, the 777 freighters will serve Crystal Cargo operation, the carrier said yesterday.
"Our decision to expand our Dreamliner fleet is testimony to Etihad's commitment to operating one of the youngest and most fuel-efficient fleets in the skies," said James Hogan, the Etihad chief executive.
"Both the 787 Dreamliner and the 777 freighter offer highly attractive operating economics and will facilitate our global expansion plans by allowing us to transport passengers and cargo into new markets from our hub in Abu Dhabi," he said.
Etihad also has options on 25 more 787s.
The airline willtake delivery of 41 787s between late 2014 and 2019.
The aircraft order come at the end of a watershed year for Etihad. In the third quarter of the year, the airline moved into operating profit for the first time in its eight-year history.
The order also follows multibillion-dollar bookings by Etihad's rival Gulf operators Emirates Airline and Qatar Airways at last month's Dubai Airshow. All three airlines are bolstering their capacity from the mid to late part of the decade.
Carrying up to 300 passengers and over a range of 8,000 nautical miles, the 787-9, the longer version of the 787, will initially be used on routes to Dublin, Frankfurt, Istanbul, Kuala Lumpur, Beijing, Nagoya and Delhi.
Etihad's order is a significant show of faith in the 787, which has been heralded as a game-changer in commercial aerospace.
After several years of delays during its development, Boeing in September finally delivered its first 787 to a customer, Japan's All Nippon Airways.
It is already the fastest-selling twin-aisle aircraft in aviation history, with a large portion of the more than 800 bookings from Middle Eastern carriers.
"Etihad's order for more 787-9s shows its confidence in Boeing's coming stretched variant of the Dreamliner that's due to enter service in 2014, but it also demonstrates that Etihad will use the 787-9 to form the backbone of its long-haul fleet, delivering the best economics and lowest fuel burn of any twin aisle, twin-engine airplane," said Saj Ahmad, the chief analyst at StrategicAero Research.
The Dreamliner has been much anticipated because its more efficient engines will enable airlines to cut their carbon emissions while burning 20 per cent less fuel than other similar-sized aircraft.
Boeing says the lighter plane is more comfortable for passengers because it offers larger windows with an adjustable tint, an improved air filtration system and a quieter flying experience.
The two extra 777 freighters will bring Etihad's fleet to 21 777s, including 18 passenger aircraft and three freighters. The cargo fleet also comprises two A300-600Fs, two A330-200Fs and two MD11Fs.
"We continually review our operating environment and look to leverage off the great flexibility which we built into our 2008 fleet order," Mr Hogan said.
Etihad announced what was then the largest aircraft order in commercial aviation history at the 2008 Farnborough International Air Show - up to 205 aircraft, including 100 firm orders, 55 options and 50 purchase rights.
Boeing has already secured big orders this year from Gulf carriers. Emirates last month signed an order for 50 Boeing 777-300ER aircraft, plus options for 20 more. At the time of the announcement, the US$26bn deal was the biggest in Boeing's commercial history in dollar value. Boeing also clinched a deal with Qatar Airways for two 777 freighters, valued at US$560 million at list price.
The US plane maker is on course to reach its highest number of commercial aircraft orders this year since 2007.
Etihad plans to raise the funding for the new aircraft in global finance markets, as it does for all its aircraft purchases, according to a spokesman for the airline.
* with additional reporting by Rebecca Bundhun