Ethiopian Airlines has made its inaugural commercial flight of its newly acquired Boeing 787-900 Dreamliner, to Kilimanjaro International Airport.
Its launch and entry into Tanzania's epicentre of tourism is expected to give the travel and tourism sectors a big shot in the arm.
The demand for passenger seats has been growing fast to service the lucrative Kilimanjaro route as the destination continues to attract new visitors and conference organisers to its tourism wonderlands scattered all over the country's northern zone. The tourism industry contributes nearly 17% of the GDP, far more than minerals. It is set to increase in the near future.
Ethiopian Airlines, the largest and most profitable airline group in Africa, has become the first in the continent to receive and operate the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner.
This extends the airline's tradition of setting aviation milestones in Africa. The airline was the first African carrier to fly the 787-8 in 2012, similarly, the airline introduced the 777-200LR (Longer Range), 777-300ER (Extended Range) and 777 Freighter. And more recently the Airbus A350.
The Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner is the latest extension to Boeing's super-efficient 787 family. The new aircraft can fly farther and with more passengers and more cargo, than the Boeing 787-8 - but with the same exceptional environmental performance: 20 percent less fuel usage and 20 percent fewer emissions than the aircraft it will replace.
The new aircraft will feature fully flat beds in business class, with in-flight Wi-Fi services also set to be introduced. Passengers will also benefit from larger windows and stow bins, modern LED lighting, higher humidity and cleaner air, lower cabin pressure and a smoother, quieter ride.
The 787-9 is 20 feet or 6 metres longer than the 787-8 and has more passenger capacity with 30 seats in Business Class (flat bed) and 285 seats in Economy (total 315 seats) and more cargo space.
As it rolls out a major fleet expansion and upgrade including a total of 20 Boeing 787s, 10 Boeing 777s; 16 Boeing 737-800s and 7 Airbus A350-900 XWBs, Ethiopian Airline will become the first African airline to operate both Boeing and Airbus' modern next-generation aircraft at the same time.
Currently, ET flies to more than 100 international destinations in five continents using 93 most modern and youngest fleet, 20 of which are B787 Dreamliner, deployed on its long haul routes.
At KIA , Mrs Fitsemt Dejene, ET's Traffic and Sales Manager for Arusha and Kilimanjaro regions said, the aircraft adds a number and quality to ET fleet which is always ahead of other airlines in Africa.
"And it is also historic for us to receive the B-787-9 aircraft maiden commercial flight to Kilimanjaro, the Roof of Africa," said Mrs Dejene, at the new Boeing launch for its tour of airports in the Ethiopian global network.
Kilimanjaro, located in the North of Tanzania, is a major tourist destination with huge economic significance for Tanzania and part of Ethiopian's extensive network in Africa.
The Tanzanian northern zone boasts of Kilimanjaro, the highest freestanding mountain in Africa, The Serengeti and Ngorongoro both commanding a big number of visitors. There is also Tarangire, Lake Manyara and Mkomazi parks including the wealth of cultural insight and heritage in Tanzania's prominent tribes, and the huge Arusha International Conference Centre (AICC) based in Arusha.
Apart from tourism industry Tanzania northern zone also has precious mineral resources (including Tanzanite, the one and only in the World), thousands of livestock, a robust horticulture industry that adds, value to the quality of life of the people and revenues in the country's national cake.
To complement the celebratory mood, a tour leader of the biggest group on board ET814/28OCT, from the UK, has been upgraded to Cloud Nine (ET's Business Class) to experience the relaxing features and warm hospitality that is much needed after summiting Mount Kilimanjaro.