ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES AIMS FOR AFRICAN TOP SPOT
Only a day after reporting here about Kenya Airways ambitions in the months and years ahead did information reach from a periodic source in Addis Ababa, putting Ethiopian Airlines also into the frame and into the race for top honours in Africa.
Already one of the continents leading airlines, and applicant member to join global industry leader Star Alliance in the not too distant future, Ethiopian has maintained its standing as a Pan African airline, connecting the world to Africa through their hub in Addis Ababa, and while not as media savvy as nearest rival Kenya Airways, has operationally moved ahead, almost under the radar of the media spotlight, to cement its place as a leading contender for the continents top spot. Leading in international destinations, the most of any African airline, they are neck on neck with Kenya Airways in terms of continental reach and the announcement by KQ to fly to every political and commercial capital in Africa by the end of 2013 has seemingly only strengthened the resolve in Addis to give as good as they get.
ET, according to information available, presently operates a fleet of 47 passenger and cargo aircraft and has a further 30 planes on order, including 10 B787 Dreamliners and 12 A350, which will allow the airline to phase out the aged B767 fleet while catering for growth via added frequencies and new destinations. Rival Kenya Airways currently operates a fleet of 33 aircraft, likely to double by 2020 while Ethiopians own forecast is looking at 70 aircraft within a similar timeframe.
Besides passenger operations ET is also leading in terms of their cargo operations and orders for dedicated B777F aircraft have been placed with Boeing to complement and eventually replace the existing freighter fleet presently comprising 5 cargo aircraft. In contrast here is Kenya Airways only just entering the dedicated cargo market with the arrival of a B747F this month and at least two additional B737F in early 2012.
Interesting enough, South African Airways or Egypt Air, two other leading airlines on the continent, are both members of Star Alliance, and with the expected entry of Ethiopian into Star will become the number one alliance in Africa, especially considering ETs start ups in West Africa also singing to the family tunes. Neither of them however can presently match Ethiopian in terms of reach and market strength and while both have ambitious expansion plans, Egypt Air still suffers of political events earlier this year while South African Airways, by any standards, is playing catch up with KQ and ET when it comes to connecting the continent.
Interesting times ahead for African aviation, also putting the notion to rest that ALL of Africas aviation ventures are moribund, unsafe and lack vision and ambition. Not in the case of Ethiopian Airlines for sure. Watch this space.