Grand news for Boeing (NYSE:BA) investors this week: Ethiopia Airlines (EA) has just agreed to spend up to $1.3 billion buying five of Boeing's "ultra-long-range" 777 "Worldliner" twin-aisle planes equipped with General Electric (NYSE:GE) engines. All together now:

Ethiopia has an airline?
Yes, of course Ethiopia has an airline. In fact, Boeing's VP of Sales for Latin American, African, and Caribbean calls EA "one of the premier airlines in Africa and around the world." It currently flies six 737s, nine 757s, 10 767s, and one McDonnell-Douglas 11BCF (which, if you look closely, makes this an all-Boeing fleet.)

EA is the first African airline to order this particular 777, which enjoys most of its sales success in the Middle and Far East (although Delta (NYSE:DAL) has bought a few.) EA also has ordered Boeing's much-ballyhooed (and then booed) 787 Dreamliner -- 10 of 'em, in fact. Gloats Boeing: "With the exception of the 747, it has operated every heritage Boeing commercial airplane since the 707."

Which is why this week's news was such a tragedy for Boeing.

Huh?
Yes, you read that right. The big story today isn't the Boeing aircraft EA has already bought, or the Boeings EA is now buying ... but the Boeings it won't be buying. Because within 24 hours after announcing the 777 deal, EA signed a memorandum of understanding on a second, larger purchase: one dozen A350-900s manufactured by Boeing's archrival, Airbus.

The second deal, coming hard on the heels of the first, is a slap in the face to Boeing -- and an out-of-the-blue victory for Airbus. In one fell swoop, Airbus:

  • Scored a deal more than twice as large as Boeing's ($2.9 billion versus $1.3 billion).
  • Illustrated the consequences of Boeing's failure to deliver the Dreamliner on time (the A350 being Airbus's analog to Boeing's 787).
  • And smashed Boeing's monopoly at Ethiopian Airlines. The all-Boeing fleet is no more.

Foolish takeaway
It's not all bad news for U.S. companies, of course. Boeing and Airbus suppliers, for example, are often agnostic on whose planes their parts go into. Accordingly, none of Goodrich (NYSE:GR) or Honeywell (NYSE:HON), United Technologies (NYSE:UTX) or Parker Hannifin (NYSE:PH), -- each of which manufactures crucial parts for the A350 -- will shed too many tears for Boeing's loss. Boeing shareholders, however, can expect to see this week's events repeated again and again until Boeing gets its act together on the 787.

Sooner rather than later, please.

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Fool contributor Rich Smith owns shares of Boeing. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.