Ethiopian Airlines, often referred to as simply Ethiopian and Ethiopia’s flag carrier which is wholly owned by the country’s government was founded on 21 December 1945 in a joint venture with an American airline, TWA (Trans World Airlines). The first scheduled flight took place to Cairo via Asmara in Douglas C-47 Skytrain. Five US Government surplus C-47 aircraft were purchased for the venture.
Following the successful inaugural flight to Cairo, a regular weekly service was established. Weekly services to Djibouti and Aden followed, as well as domestic service to Jimma. Demands for additional services were so great that towards the end of 1946, four more C-47 Skytrains were purchased. Since these aircraft were ex-US military, they had few comforts; all had folding bench-type canvas seats along the sides, with the central aisle kept clear so that cargo could be lashed to the floor.
From a very humble beginning to a Leading African Aviation Group, Ethiopian Airlines has come along with 76 years of successful journey and aging beautifully. Now it has grown to become Africa’s largest airline, with a fleet of 130 aircraft operating a particularly diverse fleet of widebody twinjets. ‘The New Spirit of Africa’ is the company slogan, has been a Star Alliance member since December 2011. Throughout the past seven decades, the airline has established itself as adept in all facets of the aviation industry: technology leadership, network expansion, and aviation mentoring.
Ethiopian Airline Group
Looking to the future, Ethiopian plans to “continue to focus on [its] pillars with a renewed emphasis on sustainability.” These pillars, to which the airline attributes its success, are “human resource development, modern fleet, infrastructure development, and technology.” One way that Ethiopian airlines is well prepared for the future is the fact that, despite the pandemic, it has continued to expand its fleet.
Continuing its dedication to providing world-class service, Ethiopian has formulated and is implementing, a 15-year strategic roadmap, Vision 2025, to become the leading Aviation Group in Africa. At the end of the 15-year period, Ethiopian plans to become the leading Aviation Group in Africa, comprising of seven profit centers including Ethiopian Domestic and Regional Airline, Ethiopian International Passenger Airline, Ethiopian Cargo, Ethiopian MRO, Ethiopian Aviation Academy, Ethiopian In-flight Catering Services, Ethiopian Ground Services with $10 billion in annual revenue and close to $1 billion in annual profit.
Ethiopian Passenger Airline
Ethiopian has been growing in leaps and bounds and has kept on introducing new aviation technology and systems, with so many firsts in the history of African aviation as an aircraft technology leader; providing the first jet service in the continent, availing the first African B767, the first African B777- 200LR in 2010 and the first African and second only to Japan B787 Dreamliner in 2012. In a continuation of that tradition, the airline group was the first in Africa to acquire Airbus A350 XWB, introducing the extra effect to the African continent. Leading the way once again, Ethiopian was the first African Airline to operate the latest Boeing 787-9 in 2017. Below the industry average, Ethiopian currently operates the young and most modern fleet, with less than five years of age, and has 43 fleets on order.
Living its motto of Bringing Africa Together and Beyond, Ethiopian has created a missing link through its vast African network to 62 cities and more than 127 international passenger and cargo destinations, with daily and more flights, with a minimum layover in Addis Ababa. As a veteran African carrier, Ethiopian has positioned vast Intra-Africa network better than any Airline. 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. Ethiopian joined Star Alliance, the world’s largest Airline network, in December 2011.
Despite these fierce headwinds, the carrier continues to operate and demonstrate the strength of African aviation. Let’s take a look at notable news for the airline over the past 12 months. For those interested in the airline’s entire history, you can find articles here and here.
Continuing to grow
Despite significant setbacks to the global aviation industry, Ethiopian Airlines is continuing to grow and is setting its sights far past this crisis. In September, the carrier took delivery of its 32nd Dash 8-400 turboprop, having already received its 30th and 31st Dash 8-400s earlier this year. Fleet growth includes widebodies as well, as Ethiopian also took delivery of two Airbus A350s this year, with both taking place quite recently, in December. The airline still plans to place a significant widebody order in the near future, with the Airbus A350 and Boeing 777X being the top contenders for the airline’s interest.
The airline CEO has confirmed that the company is in the final stages of its decision-making process regarding its next widebody order. Tewolde GebreMariam said that one of the designs that he is considering is the stretched-fuselage Airbus A350-1000. The -1000 variant of Airbus’s next-generation widebody family clocks in at 73.79 meters long. This gives it an added seven meters of length over the 66.8-meter-long A350-900 variant, which typically translates to around 55 extra seats. However, the extra capacity isn’t the only selling point for Ethiopian Airlines. Indeed, GebreMariam told Aviation Week that:
“It looks like the A350-1000 is good for the high altitude of 2,200 m (7,200 feet) above sea level at our hub [at] Addis Ababa Bole International Airport, so we are okay [with the aircraft performance].”
While GebreMariam considers the A350-1000 to be an attractive proportion for his airline, it is not the only widebody design that the Ethiopian Group CEO is considering. Indeed, he is also weighing up the possibility of bringing the Boeing 777X series to Addis Ababa. Regarding Boeing’s next-generation widebody, GebreMariam told Aviation Week:
“As you know, the 777X is delayed. However, we are talking with Boeing [as well]. Before the end of the year, we plan to have made a decision.”
This means that we should see Ethiopian add to its order book in the next few months. Regardless of which design the airline goes for, GebreMariam plans to order at least 10 narrowbodies to accompany his carrier’s existing twin-aisle fleet. But which widebodies does Ethiopian already operate? Let’s take a closer look at the relevant data.
Working with other African carriers
On 17 January 2008, the General Meeting to establish the new international private airline was held in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, and Ethiopian Airlines became the technical and strategic partner, holding a 40% stake. ASKY Airlines is a private-sector multinational passenger airline serving West and Central Africa, with its head office in Lomé, Togo, and its hub at Gnassingbé Eyadéma International Airport. In February 2018, Ethiopian and its Togo-based regional airline partner ASKY Airlines formed a strategic partnership with the Guinean government to establish a startup carrier Guinea Airlines by June. This partnership is in line with the airline’s 15-year Vision 2025 strategic plan to establish strategic partnerships with many African countries, enabling them to regain market share for travel. It is also in line with the recently launched African Single Air Transport Market.
Ethiopian signed in July 2013 a deal for the acquisition of 49% of the Malawian carrier following the collapse of Air Malawi. The new airline was named Malawian Airlines, became the flag carrier of Malawi, and is based in Lilongwe with its hub at Lilongwe International Airport. The remaining shareholding will be held by the government of Malawi and private Malawian investors. Operations commenced on 31 January 2014 serving the Blantyre–Lilongwe domestic route using 67-seater Bombardier Q400 aircraft. Malawian launched its first international service to Harare on 3 February 2014. Johannesburg was added to the route network two weeks later, on 17 February, and Dar es Salaam was incorporated on 18 February.
Ethiopian Mozambique Airlines
In May 2018 Ethiopian Airlines publicized its intent to establish a subsidiary based in Mozambique as part of its expansion plan. Ethiopian Mozambique Airlines was an airline based at Maputo International Airport that flew to cities throughout Mozambique. The Ethiopian Airlines subsidiary launched operations in December 2018 using Q400 aircraft; its fleet included the Boeing 737-800 as well. It thus became the third airline to service the Mozambican domestic market, joining LAM Mozambique Airlines and Fastjet. The company connected Maputo to nine destinations in the country as of March 2019.
In August 2018, the Government of Chad had signed an agreement with Ethiopian Airlines to launch Chad’s new national carrier on 1 October 2018. It was also announced the airline would be named Tchadia Airlines and would start operations using a fleet of 2 Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 transferred from Ethiopia, and would initially serve the four main cities in Chad and to neighboring countries. The airline is the national carrier of Chad, it is based at N’Djamena International Airport in N’Djamena, Chad.
On 20 August 2018, Ethiopian Airlines signed a definitive agreement with the Zambian Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), to acquire 45 percent shareholding in the revived air carrier for US$30 million. The plan is to start with local and regional routes and expand to intercontinental routes later. The revamped airlines plan to operate 12 planes by 2028. October 24, 2018, was bound to relaunch the old national airline, Zambia Airways, however, the new Zambia Airways (ZN) didn’t get off the ground until December 1, 2021, due to long delays by the government and the COVID-19 pandemic.
The airline joined African sky with its initial domestic flight from Lusaka to Ndola and it will operate at a frequency of six and five times a week to Ndola and Livingstone, respectively. Other domestic routes to Mfuwe and Solwezi will follow before introducing regional destinations, to Johannesburg and Harare, to its network within the first quarter of 2022. Zambia Airways is the flag carrier of the Republic of Zambia. The airline is based in Lusaka, Zambia with its hub at Kenneth Kaunda International Airport. Mr. Tewolde GebreMariam, Group CEO of Ethiopian Airlines remarked:
“The strategic equity partnership in the launching of Zambia’s national carrier is part of our Vision 2025 multiple hub strategies in Africa. Ethiopian is committed to its growth plan in collaboration with African carriers and the new Zambia Airways will serve as a strong hub in Central and Southern Africa availing domestic, regional, and eventually international air connectivity for passengers and cargo to the major destinations in the Middle East, Europe, and Asia, which will enhance the socio-economic integration and tourism industry in Zambia and the region”
The next project is to start a new carrier in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), beginning with a fleet of 10 aircraft. The carrier will be named Air Congo. The DRC government will own 51% of the airline and Ethiopian Airlines 49%. The Congolese carrier’s fleet will comprise Dash 8-400s, Boeing 737s, and two 787s. While the DRC – the third-largest population in Africa with 100 million inhabitants – presented a significant market opportunity for the Ethiopian airline group, the real driver for the venture was not the return on investment. It is to support our hub Addis Ababa, the group CEO disclosed.
“We want to expand inter-African routes further because the connectivity [within the continent] is still not well. Ethiopian Airlines is like the Lufthansa Group of Africa,”
Ethiopian Aviation Academy (EAA)
Ethiopian Aviation Academy (EAA) is the largest and the most modern aviation academy in Africa recognized as the ICAO Regional Training Center of Excellence. To train aviation professionals from classrooms to simulator training, EAA offers industry-standard training for pilots, aircraft technicians, cabin attendants, and ground services staff both for initial and recurrent students. The Leadership & Career Development Center is training thousands in Management and Leadership Skills. Our cabin crew training simulates real-time scenarios with training aircraft designed for emergency drills and service training.
Full Flight Simulator
The pilot training school uses light aircraft for its basic training and simulators. Full flight simulators of all fleets Ethiopian operates are available for pilot training. Virtual Maintenance Trainers (VMTs) and various workshops feature our aircraft maintenance training. Beyond these, our academy develops standard training packages including e-learning and virtual classroom training. Trainee services include a trainees’ cafeteria, dormitories, an administration complex, and a plush new auditorium. The academy plans to take in 4,000 students a year in its basic training programs. These are the most technologically advanced aircraft as a sign of the company’s commitment to leading Africa’s aviation industry, as well as bridging the continent’s skills gap. The Airline Group has simulators for all the aircraft we fly; A350, B787, B777, B767/B757, B737, and Q400.
Ethiopian Maintenance Repair and Overhaul (MRO)
The scale of the MRO operation at Ethiopian is breathtaking. It is the largest MRO service in Africa and serves Africa and the Middle East. The facility is fully equipped with Hangars, Engine, and Component Maintenance workshops with all equipment needed to repair/ overhaul aircraft, engines, and components. Even if you have flown a lot you might have not fully appreciated the size of the largest civil jet engines until you are up close with these huge engines as you walk through the workshop. The MRO service was established in 1957 and it currently employs over 2,800 employees. Ethiopian MRO provides Line Maintenance services at stations where Ethiopian flies and extends the services to other operators at some of the stations. The facility is fully certified by the ETCAA, FAA, and EASA. Ethiopian MRO offers world-class services to its customers and helps make Ethiopian one of the most dependable and safest airlines in the world.
Ethiopian Airlines has become the first airline in Africa and the Middle East to successfully carry out the GEnx-1B engine correlation test in 2018. The GEnx-1B engine that powers the B787 Aircraft is one of the technologically advanced high-thrust jet engines in GE Aviation history that offers up to 15% better fuel efficiency and 15% less CO2 compared to its predecessors. GEnx engine represents a giant leap forward in propulsion technology, using the latest materials and design processes to reduce weight, improve performance and deliver a more fuel-efficient commercial aircraft engine. Ethiopian MRO Engine Maintenance shop has been repairing this engine model since October 2018.
This accomplishment in the GEnx-1B engine correlation test makes Ethiopian MRO the sixth GEnx-1B Engine testing center in the global GE MRO network and the first in Africa and the Middle East. The Ethiopian MRO test site has successfully correlated GEnx-1B in its 100,000-lbf existing Largest Test Cell in Africa. Capable of testing the largest, most sophisticated GE engines in production, the Ethiopian Engine test cell will support the GEnx-1B engine effective Feb 14, 2021. The test cell has an existing capability to test run PW4000, CFM56-7B, CFM56-3C, PW150A, GTCP 331-200, GTPC 131-9B Engine, and APU models. In the future, the site will also be used to support the Trent XWB and CFM LEAP-1B engine powering the Airbus A350 and Boeing B737 MAX airplane families.
The GEnx-1B Engine has passed through back-to-back testing that is initially tested in the GE Peebles master test facility with a stable performance run of the engine. Then, this duplicate run is tested in Ethiopia at 7600ft altitude to correlate the baseline/reference test site. Ethiopian MRO test site has performed multiple GEnx-1B performance runs up to 76,000-lbf of thrust with multiple ratings. The testing has been carried out by a team of professionals from Ethiopian, GE, and Safran Test Cells. Watching the engine run in the cell that simulates the actual airplane scenarios of fastening the seat belt to ground idle up to take off the feeling of the engine’s actual performance on the ground is interesting and rare to witness.
Ethiopian Cargo and Logistics services are the largest cargo network operator in Africa. Currently, With our dedicated 10 – Boeing 777- 200LRF and 2 – Boeing 737-800F freighters, we serve 58 cargo destinations in Africa, the Gulf, the Middle East, Asia, Europe, and North Americas with an average daily uplift of over 650 tons on top of the belly-hold capacity with a daily uplift of over 200 tons. With this, it has achieved the highest aircraft daily utilization of over 17 hours on its B777FS. Ethiopia is perfectly situated in the center of the emerging economies contributing its part to the growing trade and tourism partnership between countries as well as between continents.
Ethiopian has inaugurated a state-of-the-art cargo terminal II, which upgrades the cargo handling capacity close to a million tons per annum together with the existing cargo terminal I. When the 600,000 tons capacity phase II of the cargo expansion completes, Ethiopian Cargo and Logistics services will have an overall annual capacity of over 1.5 million tons. BY Revising its vision 2025, Ethiopian Cargo and Logistics services are now planning to serve 57 freighter dedicated destinations using 18 jet cargo aircraft.
Playing a critical role throughout the crisis
April 2021 marked a milestone moment for the airline as it delivered 2.184 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine through the COVAX global vaccine-sharing initiative. The leadership at Ethiopian Airlines said that its goal was to take a leading role in transporting vaccines across the globe.
Six months later, the airline proudly announced that it had delivered over 50 million doses to more than 28 countries. The work of transporting vaccines has been carried out by the airline’s cargo division: Ethiopian Cargo and Logistics Services, Africa’s largest cargo service provider. The firm says that it has successfully distributed the vaccines via its specially equipped facility called ‘Pharma Wing.’
The airline’s focus on cargo will continue as it is partnering with IAI to set up a 767 passenger-to-freighter conversion facility at Ethiopian’s Addis Ababa hub. This new partnership was announced in August 2021.
“Ethiopian Airlines has played its irreplaceable role in responding to dire need of the global cargo transportation amidst the pandemic. By this, the Airline has proved to be the pioneer and an epitome of continental and global solidarity.” –Mr. Tewolde GebreMariam, Group CEO of Ethiopian Airlines
In addition to its work in transporting vaccinations, the airline also notes that it was one of the few carriers that worked continuously throughout the crisis amid border closures and travel restrictions. As a result, Ethiopians had reunited or repatriated more than 63,000 stranded passengers.
The catering unit is built in 1968 on 3260 square meters of land and expanded in 1986 to accommodate the growing operational needs of Ethiopian Airlines. We renovated the previous building to work 24/7 in conjunction with the newly inaugurated ultramodern catering facility built-in 2016 on 11,500 square meters. Ethiopian in-flight catering is one of the seven strategic business units (SBU) under the Ethiopian Aviation Group. In total it has more than 604 permanents and 394 temporary employees who produce 100,000 meals per day for passengers traveling on average more than 125 flights.
The facilities are modern and fully equipped to deal with such high demand. Good food is important to our discerning customers. Ethiopian In-Flight Catering is dedicated to delivering high-quality service and part of that is delivering high-quality food. The new menus give customers the choice of local Injera, a vegan option, and a variety of world cuisines, from Chinese and Indian to Italian. An automated entrance door access control system is implemented to allow authorized personnel and employees to enter the facility as part of security and Covid -19 control.
VIP and Charter flights which often shuttle to and from the Addis Ababa Hub are prominent customers of the catering unit. The Catering unit is strictly guided by HACCP policies and procedures which promote a high level of quality management for the safe production and handling process of all catering services. In line with the ETHIOPIAN’s vision, the catering unit is newly structured and organized as a strategic business unit ( SBU) consisting of seven sections including the department of In-flight catering Quality Management System & Safety Management System, Food production, Operations, Procurement, and supply chain, HR development & Finance- Catering, Route catering, and Catering facility maintenance.
The Ethiopian Skylight hotels in Addis Ababa will soon be the biggest in Africa with a room capacity of 1,000. The hotel which was opened two years ago with 375 rooms has begun the second phase of construction 640 additional rooms as part of the eight and night strategic business unit of the Ethiopian Airlines Group.
The already completed Skylight Hotel is an ultra-luxurious Five-Star hotel. The Hotel is an edifice presented to the fast-growing African capital offering hospitality on par with the international standard. The hotel is adjacent to Bole International Airport of Addis Ababa. It’s situated on about 40,000 square meters and backed by a USD65 million investment. It was built by AVIC Engineering Corporation as an EPC contractor, with 375 guest rooms. The hotel offers five function rooms of varying capacity, a fitness center, outdoor heated swimming pool, mini-golf driving range, a 600m2 exhibition center, boutique shop as well as the ticket office, and other amenities.
Travelers can enjoy the spectacular city views from most of the hotel rooms. Comprising 3 luxurious restaurants including the biggest Chinese Restaurant in East Africa, at 900m2, and a 900m2 traditional Ethiopian restaurant, and three lounge bars with an All-Day Dining Restaurant. The Lobby Lounge and the Front Lobby are spacious enough for social and business meetings. Grand Ballroom which can accommodate 2000 guests at a time can also be divided into 5 individual halls along with a spacious foyer area, accommodating 500-800 guests. It is ideal for tailor-made social events, weddings, and conferences. The three separate daylight and two other VIP private meeting rooms are fit for traveler corporate meeting demands.
Ethiopian Ground Services
Ethiopian Ground Services provides a comprehensive range of ground handling services to international and regional passenger services as well as cargo services for Ethiopian Airlines and other scheduled and Adhoc customer airlines. Ethiopian Ground Services provides quality service and aims to satisfy its customers at all times. Ethiopian Ground Services covers all aspects of ground services necessary to handle arrival and departure processes of airlines in Addis Ababa and domestic airports with modern ground support equipment, highly trained and committed staff. Annually, Ethiopian Ground Services serves more than seven million passengers and 200 tons of cargo at the Addis Ababa airport hub.
Per Vision 2025, Ethiopian Ground Services aims to be the most efficient service provider in Africa with the highest standard of safety and quality service. Currently, Ethiopian Ground Services supports and satisfies the hub operation in Addis Ababa and plans to expand its services to African airports to meet the fast-growing demand for ground handling services. We are an enterprise engaged in Ground Handling Services located at Addis Ababa International Airport. Our objective is to provide High-quality Ground handling Services that meet and exceeds international standards ensuring efficiency and excellence in service delivery. As a Ground Handling company, we are tasked mainly to support the Ground Operations of Airlines that have made Addis Ababa International Airport one of their destinations.
With everything Ethiopian airline group going for it, Ethiopian’s upcoming years are simply bright.