The East African airline has continued to fly and create new business since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the A350-900 is part of this success.
Some 60 percent of the world’s fleet was grounded in 2020 due to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on air transport, as aviation industry estimates show. The impact of the pandemic took a noticeable effect from March 2020 when the number of flights dropped significantly, as a direct consequence of the collapse in passenger demand.
Most companies booked massive financial losses, making 2020 the worst year in the aviation industry financially speaking. Interestingly, Ethiopian Airlines was among those which remained “cash positive” during this period.
Cargo boost to operations
March 2020 is precisely the month when Ethiopian started to operate its first cargo-only service on a passenger aircraft. The Addis Ababa-based carrier made the crucial decision to temporarily convert part of its fleet to carry cargo rather than passengers. Since then, the company has boosted its capacity on cargo operations.
This remarkable agility at all levels of the company enabled Ethiopian to meet the cargo demand which was increasing at that time. Its “preighters” – passenger aircraft carrying cargo in the cabin – transported tonnes of masks and medical products, as well as industrial products and goods such as mobile phones, IT equipment, and clothing.
In a recent communication, the company indicated it had “operated 5,645 cargo flights on the cabin of passenger aircraft and transported more than 121,750 tonnes of cargo across its vast global network. The flights added an immense value to the total of 33,182 flights and 735,869 tonnes of cargo transported during the period from March 25, 2020, to March 25, 2021”.
All Ethiopian A350-900 kept flying
Not surprisingly, Ethiopian used its entire A350-900 fleet for cargo operations. Seven out of its 16 extra-wide body aircraft have been converted to freighters by removing all economy seats. The other nine are used either for passengers or for cargo loaded on the economy seats. As a result, all Ethiopian A350-900 have kept flying during the period.
The East African carrier has fully benefited from the extraordinary capability of the Airbus aircraft to fly with an operational reliability of 99.5 percent. Incorporating advances in flight controls, systems, and wing design, the A350-900 is a truly state-of-the-art aircraft. These developments have a genuine impact in terms of operations, maintenance and efficiency, meaning that the aircraft reduces its fuel burn significantly – generating savings and reducing its environmental impact. The aircraft has the lowest cost per seat of its category.
A350 navigates the storm
Reaching high in terms of efficiency and reliability, the A350 also turns out to be highly versatile. “The cabin layout of the A350 is based on the concept of “simplicity by design” where efficiency of space onboard the aircraft is a key factor”, says Mikail Houari, President Airbus Africa Middle East. “The 221-inch cross-section, the straight sidewalls from floor to ceiling, the unequalled height of the ceiling and the reduced tapering offer an unequalled space to load parcels. Designed at the origin to improve the comfort of the passengers, the fully flat, horizontal floor and the recessed rails are particularly practical when the aircraft is in cargo configuration”.
For all these reasons, the A350-900 has been instrumental in the airline’s strategy to navigate the storm. “Let me express my admiration for Ethiopian Airlines’ remarkable achievement during this unprecedented pandemic. Let me also voice my pride to see the A350 playing a critical role in this success”, concludes Mikail.
Ethiopian Airlines Records 91% Three Months’ On-Time Performance Above Industry Average
Ethiopian Airlines has announced that it has reached 91 percent On-Time Performance of all global flight departures for the last three months while the industry average stands around 85 percent. The airline has also operated a total of 18,385 flights in January, February, and March in which it has scored 91 percent on-time departures.
Commenting on the feat, Ethiopian Airline Group CEO, Mr. Tewolde GebreMariam declared “We have recognized from our customers’ feedback that the COVID-19 Travel Requirements, and especially the expiry of Negative PCR Test certificates by many countries after 72 hours, have made on-time flight departures and smooth connectivity more important than ever in the past. As a result, our winning team has made it its top priority and achieved record levels of flight punctuality.
“As a customer-centric airline, we make a substantial investment to enhance our customer service. When customers choose Ethiopian, we make sure that they get the best possible experience with us including arriving to their destinations on time. The last three months have been extraordinarily productive in terms of efficiency in our flight operation. I am proud of my colleagues who are committed to eliminating any inconvenience for our esteemed passengers.”
On-Time Performance refers to an airline departure or arrival that occurs within 15 minutes of the scheduled time. Punctuality is of paramount importance for passengers as delay or cancellation affects their itinerary and makes passengers incur extra costs.