A Look Inside The Unstoppable Growth Of Ethiopian Airlines

Founded in 1945 following a request by the Emperor of Ethiopia, Ethiopian Airlines is the flag carrier of Ethiopia. Since then it has grown to be the fastest growing airline in Africa, while former heavyweight South African Airlines is on the decline. The African airline was the second customer for the Boeing B787 aircraft, showing how much Boeing values the airline. In fact, many countries are now looking to Ethiopian to help set up their national airlines. Simple Flying takes a look at the unstoppable growth of Ethiopian Airlines.

Ethiopian Growth
Ethiopian Airlines was launched in 1945, making its first commercial flight in 1946. Photo: Christian Hanuise

Humble Beginnings

As previously mentioned, Ethiopian Airlines was founded in 1945. This followed a request made by the emperor of Ethiopia to France, the UK, and the US. Eventually, TWA picked up the offer founding the airline with a $25m ETB investment from the government. While the airline was operated by TWA, it was solely owned by the Ethiopian Government.

Ethiopian Growth
Ethiopian’s first route was from Addis Ababa to Cairo via Asmara. Image: GCMaps

Ethiopian’s first revenue service operated using a Douglas C-47 acquired from the US government. It flew from Addis Ababa to Asmara to Cairo. The flight was first operated on the 8th April in 1946. By 1949 Ethiopian Airlines was recording profits of £40,000 or around £1,343,750.00 in today’s money. Now, fast forward a fair few years, and Ethiopian Airlines receives their first B787 in 2012. Ethiopian became a member of the Star Alliance in 2011 following an invitation from Lufthansa.

Expanding Portfolio

While airlines like Qatar are busy investing in a number of different airlines, Ethiopian has been busy starting airlines left, right, and centre. One of the most recent airlines it has launched is Tchadia of Chad. Tchadia became Chad’s flag carrier with its first flight on 1st October 2018. With 11 initial routes, Tchadia was launched using two Q400 aircraft.

Ethiopian Growth
Ethiopian was the second customer for the B787. Image: Boeing

The Chadian Government owns 51% of the airline, with Ethiopian Airlines owning the other 49%, meaning that the government has the controlling say in the airline. This gives Ethiopian a strategic advantage in having more than one airline bringing in money. In fact, Ethiopian Airlines either runs or is looking to run, a part of airlines in 6 different African nations. This gives Ethiopian a huge share of the rapidly expanding African aviation market.

Still Launching New Routes

Ethiopian Airlines has no plans to slow their growth. The airline is still launching new routes. In fact, on Monday Ethiopian launched the first route that travels non-stop between Los Angeles and Africa. The airline had been flying to Los Angeles via a stop required for technical reasons in Dublin, however, this stop has now moved to Lomé in Togo.

Ethiopian Growth
Ethiopian’s new route between Los Angeles and Addis Ababa. Image: GCMaps

Lomé is where ASKY Airlines is based, and ASKY is an airline in which Ethiopian owns a 40% share. This all put together means passengers bound for all corners of Africa from Los Angeles will have much more convenient transfer options. This new route will depart Los Angeles and Lomé on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays.

In addition to the new African route, Ethiopian has also launched a couple of new routes into Europe. A new flight has launched from Addis Ababa to Moscow. This service will operate directly between the cities using a B787-8, and launched on 17th of December. Launching slightly earlier on 11th December was a new route to Manchester. This route, also operated by a B787-8 is an extension of the Addis Ababa to Brussels route. However, According to anna.aero Ethiopian do not have the rights to carry passengers between Brussels and Manchester.

How big do you think Ethiopian will grow? Let us know in the comments down below!

2 comments
  1. Ethiopian bought too much jets its fleet was 30 planes only in 2010 and now reached 108, i don’t really think this airlines has a market for so a large fleet, if ADD hub was afordable many major international Airlines would connect it to their own hubs, i really Ethiopian Airlines does the same mistake than Etihad this little emirate which has no tourism entrance noor exit passengers thought they will use their airline to create a market and compete with Dubai and Emirates Airlines many years after Etihad is becoming a bid bankrupt ;

    Ethiopian did exactly the same mistake than Etihad too much state subsides and too much creation or finance participation in other non viable airlines, i hope all african airlines will increase their parts but they must be pragmatics, I think Ethiopian is forced to subside their Air Cargo transport because they do not have any port but they continue hardly subsiding passenger traffic perhaps they will andergo the same constraints than golf sisters have now in Europe and USA.

  2. I hope Ethiopian Airlines will improve the part of african companies in the african sky which is still less than 20%, the other 80% are still in the hands of extra african airlines, i think there is many steps that this country has to do in order to help its air traffic :
    1- Permit creation of private companies like in Kenya and South Africa ;
    2- Use genuine statistics and not reproduce the same mistake than South African state owben factories which forced KPMG to sort complaisant reports a little far from the indeed situation, just for example Ethiopian Gov paid a small US cabinet to publish a study impossible to believe :
    https://forwardkeys.com/publication-single/WTTC-Africa-2018-PR.html

    The study above stands that Addis Abeba has overtaken Dubai as the gateway to Africa thing which is not true cause Dubai is still the 1st gateway to Africa from Asia, Cairo is the 2nd, London is still the first gateway to Africa from North America, Jo’Burg the second, Paris is still the first gateway to Africa from Europe, Casablanca the second. And Dubai is the still 1st gateway from the 4 continents.

    That was about traffic stats where we can easily demonstrate that the internal air trafic of this airline is impossible to approach 2 millions with only so few turboprop flights between ADD and regional cities we can add that stats of minestery of tourism have to be rebenchmarked too a big part of these 0,9 million are simply transit passengers from ADD airport :
    https://addisstandard.com/commentary-why-is-ethiopias-tourism-industry-struggling/

    3- Ethiopian Airlines has to cut number of escales : today added to Delta 5 african airlines connect their own hubs directly to USA except ET which has absolutely no direct flights from ADD to any US city, 5 other african companies already do this (Egyptair, Kenya, SAA, RAM, Cabo Verde) and soon Rwandair, Tunisair + Senegal Airlines will do it directly ;

    4- Ethiopia had to encourage MICE entrance how is it possible for country like Rwanda to do more than Ethiopia in organisation of conferences and events ? Rwanda a little country which is so competeting with Kenya and ZAF now so ahead from Ethiopia ;

    5- Ethiopian has to pay very attention to its debt it purchases 60 new widebody jets perhaps before having a ready market, when we see US airlines having a gearing ratios exceed sometimes 400% but they already have their own market they only replace fuel costing 747 with new eco-eficient Dreamliners we can really ask oneself this question since only 5 years ago these new planes must add 10 $bn to this airline with has a low load factor with also many of these WB stay usually grounded more than 14 hours in airports they deserve.

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