The deal is set to be announced this week at the Paris Air Show, according to the people, who asked not to be named as the order negotiations are private. Ethiopian will take the mid-sized A350-900 version of the plane, which has a list price of $311 million, according to one person.
Sub-Saharan Africa’s largest carrier already has an order for 12 -900 variants, though it has also been looking at the stretched -1000, as well as Boeing Co.’s rival 777-8, Chief Executive Officer Tewolde Gebre Mariam said last year.
Ethiopian Air wants more wide-body aircraft to help extend a hub-based business model that relies on transferring lucrative inter-continental travelers via its home base in Addis Ababa to and from destinations across Africa.
The airline didn’t respond to repeated calls and emails seeking comment. A spokesman for Airbus said it doesn’t comment on discussions with customers.
Ethiopian is separately weighing an order for Bombardier Inc.’s Q400 turboprop and C Series single-aisle jet against models from Embraer SA, it said in May.