Q&A: Ethiopian Airlines – Ambitious vision

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Ethiopian Airlines, recognised as the fastest growing airline in Africa, is a major success story in today’s world of aviation. Wholly owned by the government of Ethiopia, it is proof that African national carriers can become players in the world market. Abel Alemu, Ethiopian’s Regional Manager Southern Africa, took some time to answer a few questions.

Q: Why the addition of an extra flight to Johannesburg?

A: Our flights are under huge demand, not only to Addis Ababa but also beyond to a wider selection of over 100 routes worldwide. Ethiopian Airlines started flying to Johannesburg in 1994, where it operates two flights a day currently. The airline added Cape Town in its growing network in June 2015. The route is currently being served with a daily direct flight with ultra-modern Boeing 787 Dreamliner and B777- 300. A Boeing 737-800 will be dedicated to the new flight on 1 April with 138 seats in economy and 15 seats in business class. Already added to the booking system, reservations can be made with immediate effect.

Q: How strategic is the recently announced partnership with the Zambian government for the relaunch of Zambia Airways?

A: The partnership with the Zambian government on the launch of the Zambia Airways will enable the travelling public in Zambia and the southern African region to enjoy greater connectivity options, thereby facilitating the flow of investment, trade and tourism, and contributing to the socioeconomic growth of the country and the region. This is in line with our vision 2025 strategy that will see us become the leading airline group in Africa, and also the multiple hubs strategy, which will not only concentrate passenger traffic and flight operations at a given airport, but also extend our routes.

Q: More recently, the announcement of a partnership with Guinea Airlines. Why?

A: The partnership will strengthen trade, tourism and the bilateral ties between the two nations. The flight will also help Guinean business people travel to major world trading cities across our network.

Q: What are your thoughts on the latest developments in the ‘open skies’ debate – the launch of the African Single Air Transport Market?

A: SAATM (Single African Air Transport Market) will pave the way to liberalise the air transport in Africa by removing various restrictions and regulations. By adopting this signature agreement, African states will enjoy a high level of interconnectedness fostering tourism and commerce.

Q: Last year saw the launch of free wi-fi at Addis Ababa Bole International Airport. How strategic was this for Ethiopian Airlines?

A: The demand for inflight wi-fi service is growing rapidly and the availability of seamless customer focused service, both on board and at the airports, defines the rule of the game in today’s hyper competitive airline industry. We believe the service has created high level convenience to all passengers who have chosen Ethiopian Airlines.

Q: What else does Addis Ababa Bole International need before it can challenge Africa’s other established African hubs, or is it already there?

A: The Bole International Airport is one of the busiest airports on the continent. When the current terminal building expansion is fully completed by the end of the year, it will have enough space to accommodate additional boarding gates, arrival halls, baggage belts and various shops.

Q: You recently launched a flight to Chicago – why the importance of this destination (your fourth US route) and connecting Africans with the US?

A: Firstly, Chicago is the main hub of our Star Alliance partner, United Airlines, and the flight will be operated together with them to avail the best product for travellers from all over the US connecting to more than 55 destinations in Africa. Also, the connectivity between Chicago and Africa is designed in such a way that we are able to avail one of the shortest total travel times for our customers.

Q: Tell us about Ethiopian Airlines’ multi-hub strategy?

A: The multi-hubbing strategy, which is part of vision 2025, envisages creating regional integration and co-operation with other African airlines through the establishment of additional gateways that supplement the network. Togo has been identified as the first convenient hub to serve the West African market. ASKY Airline has 22 destinations in the region and is still expanding. Currently Ethiopian is establishing a presence through co-operation with, or partial ownership in, airlines of nations as diverse as Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Equatorial Guinea, Chad, Djibouti and more.

Q: What is Vison 2025?

A: Ethiopian is currently implementing a 15-year strategic plan called Vision 2025 that will see it become the leading airline group in Africa with seven strategic business units being: Ethiopian Domestic and Regional Airline, Ethiopian International Passenger Airline, Ethiopian Cargo, Ethiopian MRO, Ethiopian Aviation Academy, Ethiopian In-flight Catering Services, and Ethiopian Ground Service. The Ethiopian Aviation Academy (EAA) has been ranked among the top World Aviation Training Centres by Aviation Voice, a global aviation news provider engaged in the ranking of global aviation training centres.