Barely two months after it began, Ethiopian Airlines will end the first nonstop service from LAX to Africa next month, according to a report in online airline flight route tracker Airlineroute and indirectly confirmed in a press release from the airline.
The airline launched nonstop flights on Dec. 17 from Los Angeles International Airport to Lomé-Tokoin Airport in Togo, then connecting to Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. These thrice weekly flights were the first nonstop service between LAX and Africa.
But Airlineroute reported on Jan. 29 that Ethiopian Airlines was halting the flights on Feb. 13 as part of a broad restructuring of North American flight routes. A press release from the airline said: “There will be a new gateway, Houston, which will replace Los Angeles, and will be served three times per week via West Africa.” The release gave no date for the switchover.
According to the press release, the Houston market contains a large African community and that oil companies headquartered there have made frequent trips to oil fields and operations in Africa.
The release gave no details on whether the passenger counts on the nonstop service from LAX to Lome and Addis Ababa met the airline’s expectations. An email to the airline’s corporate communications office in Addis Ababa seeking further explanation did not receive an immediate response.
Travelers seeking to fly from LAX to Addis Ababa can still catch flights with stops in Europe, including Dublin and Madrid.
Credit: Los Angeles Business Journal
Travel consultancy ForwardKeys confirms Addis Ababa airport had increased the number of international transfer passengers to sub-Saharan Africa for five years in a row, and in 2018 had surpassed Dubai.
Ethiopia has overtaken Dubai as a conduit for long-haul passengers to Africa, highlighting the success of the state airline’s expansion drive and the reforms of its new prime minister.
Travel consultancy ForwardKeys said on Wednesday Addis Ababa airport had increased the number of international transfer passengers to sub-Saharan Africa for five years in a row, and in 2018 had surpassed Dubai, one of the world’s busiest airports, as the transfer hub for long-haul travel to the region.
Analysing data from travel booking systems that record 17 million flight bookings a day, ForwardKeys found the number of long-haul transfers to sub-Saharan Africa via Addis Ababa jumped by 85% from 2013 to 2017. Transfers via Dubai over the same period rose by 31%.
So far this year, Addis Ababa’s growth is 18%, versus 3% for Dubai.
Dubai has long been a major global air travel hub because it is the base of Gulf carrier Emirates. Given the lack of an “open skies” deal smoothing flights across Africa, many passengers travelling between one part of the continent and another, or from Asia or Europe to Africa, must often transit through Dubai.
But this is changing.
Ethiopian Airlines, the country’s most successful state company, is accelerating a 15-year strategy it launched in 2010 to win back market share on routes to and from Africa that are dominated by Turkish Airlines and Emirates.
It is also weaving a patchwork of new African routes to rapidly expanding and lucrative Asian markets.
ForwardKeys also attributed the recent jump in bookings via Addis Ababa in part to a positive international response to the broad reforms introduced by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who came to power in April and has upended politics in the Horn of Africa country of around 105 million people.
It cited two changes in particular: a move to allow visitors to apply for visas online, and Abiy’s pledge to open Ethiopia’s largely state-controlled economy to foreign investment.
After Abiy made peace with Eritrea to end a two-decade state of war, Ethiopian resumed flights to its neighbour in July. This month, it relaunched flights to Somalia’s capital after four decades.
And the rise of travel via Addis Ababa looks set to continue. International bookings via Ethiopia are up 40% year-on-year for November to January 2019, ahead of all other destinations in Africa, ForwardKeys said.
Ethiopian Airlines is accelerating its strategy of weaving a patchwork of new African routes to soak up traffic on the continent and fly customers towards its more lucrative flights to rapidly expanding Asian markets.
With a long-delayed African “open skies” revolution still mired in red tape, Ethiopian has been snapping up stakes in small carriers around the continent to pre-empt potential rivals and become the dominant pan-African airline.
The carrier is in talks with Democratic Republic of Congo, Congo Republic and Djibouti about either launching airlines or securing landing spots, CEO Tewolde GebreMariam told Reuters.
He also said in May the airline was looking to set up carriers in Equatorial Guinea and Guinea through joint ventures.
“The task of African integration is not easy,” Tewolde said in an interview. “The context is the need for air transport. There is huge demand. We are responding to it.”
Ethiopian’s push comes as Middle Eastern rivals who expanded heavily in Africa are feeling some pain from overcapacity, while African carriers such as South African Airways and Kenya Airways are on the back foot after losing money for years.
The success or failure of Ethiopian’s plan is being watched by long-haul competitors such as Turkish Airlines and suppliers led by Boeing and, more recently, Airbus.
Ethiopian’s fortunes are also important for Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government, which has said it plans to sell a minority stake in the airline to domestic and foreign investors as part of broad economic reform pledges.
Ethiopian unveiled its 15-year expansion strategy in 2010, and started small. First it helped launch ASKY Airlines in the West African country of Togo and then acquired a 49 percent stake in Malawi’s flag carrier in southern Africa in 2013.
Since May, Ethiopian has announced plans to launch an airline in Mozambique, relaunched Zambia’s flag carrier, established a new airline in Chad to cover West and Central Africa and resumed flights to Somalia after a 41-year hiatus.
The prize is growing fast. Air traffic in Africa is forecast to grow 6 percent a year, twice as quickly as mature markets and faster than any other region over the next two decades. Ethiopian is hoping to snare a greater share of capacity on flights between cities in Africa, which are already 90-percent controlled by African carriers, according to data firm OAG.
In most cases so far, Ethiopian has taken minority stakes in “start-up” airlines and tried to implant its management culture, often in nations haunted by costly failures of state carriers.
Tewolde also wants to claw back market share on routes to and from the continent, dominated by Turkish and Gulf carrier Emirates. This year, 61 percent of capacity to or from Africa has been controlled by non-African carriers, says OAG.
There are big risks.
Ethiopian is spending tens of millions of dollars in some of Africa’s toughest markets and the strategy of buying minority stakes to get a foothold abroad has failed spectacularly for some, such as Abu Dhabi’s Etihad.
Analysts worry accelerated expansion may spread Ethiopian too thinly if traffic doesn’t pick up fast enough at its new hubs in Togo, Malawi and Chad.
The regional hubs are designed partly to channel customers to Ethiopian’s main hub in Addis Ababa and so fill its direct flights to the Middle East and Asia.
There are also concerns that none is in a major African city. Lome is far smaller than west African cities such as Nigeria’s economic capital Lagos, or Abidjan in Ivory Coast, while Chad’s dusty desert capital is even smaller.
"You want to build (a hub) in a place where you are going to get local traffic and connecting traffic," said Craig Jenks, president of consultancy Airline/Aircraft Projects Inc aap.aero/index.html.
Tewolde said the new airline in Chad would draw in passengers from Cameroon, Central African Republic, Niger, northern Nigeria and Sudan. Yamlaksira Getachew, a management professor at Loyola Marymount University, warned Zambia’s relaunched flag carrier could steal traffic from Ethiopian’s existing southern African hub in neighbouring Malawi.
Ethiopian has been forced to adopt the piecemeal approach to expansion because full air transport liberalisation has failed to materialise, despite several attempts. In 1999, 44 African countries signed the Yamoussoukro Decision in Ivory Coast’s capital giving airlines freedom to ferry passengers between two foreign countries.
But the agreement was barely implemented as governments moved to protect domestic carriers.
To try to revive the stalled process, 23 African governments signed another deal this year to forge a single aviation market. So far, Ethiopian’s plan appears to be working. It says it has clocked average growth of 25 percent a year since 2010 and expects to carry nearly 10.6 million passengers this year, up from 3.7 million eight years ago.
Unlike many African rivals, it is also making money. Net profit rose 2 percent to $233 million in its 2017-18 fiscal year.
It says Western banks are helping to fund plans to boost its fleet of 108 planes, with 66 more on order.
Highlighting the potential riches at stake, Chinese banks are involved too, partly reflecting Beijing’s drive to build a new trade corridor to the Middle East and Africa, bankers said.
Ethiopian Airlines should be co-owned by African governments, suggested its Group chief executive Mr Tewolde Gebremariam.
Commenting on the recently announced privatisation plan by the government for the national carrier, Mr Tewolde said it "would be good if African countries such as Nigeria have a share in the company".
Addis Ababa is seeking to open up its economy by selling a stake in some of its state-run enterprises such as the airline. Mr Tewolde, however, cautioned that in the liberalisation strategy, Ethiopian Airlines should not be "treated like other state enterprises set for privatisation."
He said given the airline's role in connecting Africa, the government should capitalise on that to maintain its position in the continent.
"As a pan-African airline, I don't see any reason why we should not sell the minority shares of Ethiopian Airlines to African countries if they are interested in buying," Mr Tewolde said at a press briefing.
He expressed hope that the advisory council on privatisation set up by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed would consider such issues.
Africa's largest airline by revenue and profit, according to the International Air Transport Association, has stepped up its expansion plan by setting up hubs across the continent. The airline has been in talks with African governments such as Chad, Guinea, Equatorial Guinea, Djibouti, Nigeria, and Mozambique to set up carriers through joint ventures.
Mr Tewolde said the airline seeks to increase air connection within Africa that currently stands at 20 per cent.
Ethiopian Airlines is set to launch Chadian Airlines and Guinea Airlines later this year in separate joint ventures with the Chad and Guinean governments respectively. It will own a 49 per cent stake in each of the carriers, with the governments holding the remaining 51 per cent.
Mr Tewolde said the airline will also set up a new carrier, Ceiba Intercontinental, in a joint venture with Equatorial Guinea. It holds a 45 per cent share of Zambian Airways that is set to be relaunched in October after more than two decades.
Ethiopian Airlines already runs Togo-based Asky Airline where it holds a 40 per cent stake and Malawian Airlines where it has 49 per cent share. Mr Tewolde said the airline is among the frontrunners to set up and run a new national carrier for Nigeria.
In addition, he said it already has contracts for maintenance work with Nigeria's Arik Air - the largest private airline, and Medview Airline. In Mozambique, the carrier plans to set up a subsidiary, the Ethiopian Mozambique Airlines.
In Ghana, Mr Tewolde said they have been in talks with Ghana to have direct flights between Accra and London.
The airline announced a $233 million net profit for the 2017/18 financial year, a $4 million rise from $229 million it reported the previous year.
Its operating revenue rose 43 per cent to $3.21 billion. Passenger numbers increased by 21 per cent to 10.6 million. The airline purchased 14 aircraft in the financial year that ended last month to bring its fleet to 100, and added 21 destinations.
Ethiopian Airlines recently announced a joint venture agreement with German logistics giant DHL which offers the German firm a 49 per cent stake in cargo hauling business.
It is understood that the carrier is already in talks with global electronic giants like General Electric (GE), Samsung and Techno Mobile to set up their storage and distribution centres in Addis Ababa, which will then allow the airline exclusivity in providing shipment services within the continent, with DHL undertaking the last-mile connectivity.
The airline is also set to start operations of a new $350 million high-end hotel that is under construction.
Source » Nation Kenya
Ethiopian Airlines announced that it had taken delivery of the largest “B737 MAX 8’’ in Africa into its fleet.
In a statement, the Airline’s Group Chief Executive Officer, Mr Tewolde GebreMariam, said it was an immense achievement for the airline “to reach the milestone a few days after it colourfully marked its 100 fleet milestone’’.
GebreMariam said that the latest acquisition was an affirmation of the airline’s continuing pioneering role in African aviation and the successful implementation of its fast, profitable and sustainable growth plan – Vision 2025.
“Today, we are glad to include the B737 MAX 8, the latest in Boeing’s single-aisle series, in our young and modern fleet family with an average age of less than five years.
“As a customer-centric airline with a high adaptability to emerging technologies, we have been pioneering Africa’s aviation with latest-technology fleet throughout our 72 years history.
“In line with our growth targets under Vision 2025, we will keep on investing in further expansion of our fleet and in acquiring the latest aircraft the industry has to offer.
“The B737 MAX 8 features the new Boeing sky interior, highlighted by modern sculpted sidewalls and window reveals LED lighting that enhanced the sense of spaciousness ultimately boosting customers’ experience.
“The environmentally-friendly aircraft has a minimal carbon-emission and consumes 15 per cent less fuel than the 737-NG,” he said
Also, Marty Bentrott, Boeing Sales Vice President for Middle East, Turkey, Russia, Central Asia and Africa, said that with the delivery of the new ultra-modern aircraft, Ethiopian Airline’s fleet of Boeing airplanes had grown to 73 jets. He said that the fleet included the 787 Dreamliner, 777, 737 MAX and the 757 and 767 series.
Bentrott said that the airlines had continued to fly at the forefront of Africa’s commercial aviation industry by operating the most advanced airplanes.
“We are honoured by Ethiopian’s continuing confidence in Boeing airplanes and we look forward to growing our five-decade long partnership,” he said.