ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - Ethiopian Airlines ETHA.UL, one of whose Boeing (BA.N) 787 Dreamliners caught fire at Heathrow airport last month, said it had full confidence in the plane and is pressing ahead with its order for eight more.
“The airplane is undergoing a challenging time to mature, but it’s improving,” said chief executive Tewolde Gebremariam.
“I have strong confidence in this airplane. It is the future in aviation,” he told a news conference after the airline announced a near tripling of net profit.
The incident at Heathrow and a separate technical problem on a second 787 owned by Britain’s Thomson Airways raised new questions about an aircraft seen as crucial to Boeing’s future.
Boeing has asked airlines to inspect up to 1,200 aircraft to gather data on an emergency beacon made by Honeywell (HON.N) that has come under scrutiny following a fire on the Dreamliner that was parked at Heathrow.
Tewolde said the Ethiopian carrier, which has five Dreamliners, said it is negotiating compensation with Boeing but gave no details.
Asked if there were plans for more orders, Tewolde said: “We are evaluating more orders but Boeing is also busy until 2018 onward.”
Operating revenue at Ethiopian Airlines climbed to 38.5 billion birr in 2012/2013 from 33.8 billion a year earlier. Operating profit rose to 2.7 billion birr ($142.85 million) from 1 billion, helped by growth in its fleet, destinations and passenger numbers.
The carrier said it planned to expand routes between African states and Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
It wants to expand its fleet to 112 planes from 60 and carry 18 million passengers over 92 routes by 2025.
It would also cement Addis Ababa’s status as a regional hub by expanding maintenance and retail overhaul, catering and ground services.
($1 = 18.8575 Ethiopian birrs)
Editing by Edmund Blair and David Cowell