Ethiopian Airlines’ Missing Continent: Oceania

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Ethiopian Airlines, the flag carrier of Ethiopia, is well known around the world for its global presence. Since its founding in 1945, the airline has expanded its operations and fleet. Today, Ethiopian is Africa’s largest airline in terms of passengers carried, destinations served, fleet size, and revenue. It is also the world’s 4th largest airline by the number of countries served. Currently, it provides regular services to all continents except Oceania. As of February 2020, the carrier flew to 129 destinations in 75 countries.

Ethiopian 787
Ethiopian has a massive passenger and cargo network. Photo: Boeing

Hub and spoke

Ethiopian Airlines’ slogan, ‘The New Spirit of Africa’, is an appropriate representation as far as passenger traffic is concerned. The airline has done a commendable job in connecting Africa to the world, and it boasts a monopoly over international flight demand out of the continent. It is unique geographically, but in terms of operations is very similar to the likes of Emirates, Turkish Airlines, Qatar Airways, and Etihad.

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Ethiopian serves more destinations in Africa than any other airline. By late 2012, the carrier was already flying high demand routes out of Addis Ababa using its new 787s. In 2013, Ethiopian entered South America with non-stop services to Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. Soon, Singapore, Shanghai, and Vienna were launched too.

By 2016, Ethiopian was flying to unexpected destinations like Tokyo-Narita, Dublin, and Manila. The same year, it inaugurated Los Angeles and Newark, taking the total number of destinations in the Americas to six. In 2018, Buenos Aires became the second country market for the airline on the continent.

ethiopian 777
Star Alliance membership plays a vital role in the airline’s global expansion. Photo: Boeing

Major markets

The African carrier’s leading country market is China, with an estimated 2.5 million passengers between the country and Africa in 2019. Pre-coronavirus, Ethiopian served Beijing, Chengdu, Guangzhou, and Shanghai Pudong on a passenger basis. The US leads by airports per country, with five: Chicago, Houston, Newark, New York, and Washington.

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In terms of weekly seats, Dubai, Nairobi, and Entebbe are in the top three. Delhi and Mumbai were also a part of the top-ten list, with twice-daily frequencies to both the Indian cities. Earlier this year, the airline expanded services to India with new flights to Bangalore and Chennai.

In terms of connections, Nigeria is the most important African country with four destinations. For capacity, its biggest markets – Nairobi, Entebbe, Mombasa, and Khartoum – are in countries bordering Ethiopia.

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Oceanic adventure

It’s strange that, even after so many years, Ethiopian has not set foot in Oceania. Nevertheless, the reason might be understandable. First of all, Oceania to Africa passenger demand is not substantial, with most of it concentrated within a few countries.

Ethiopian Airlines Brussels Airport
Australia? Maybe not yet. Photo: Brussels Airport

Secondly, non-stop flights to destinations like Sydney, Melbourne, and Auckland will be no less than 13 hours and require a widebody aircraft like B787 or A350. This would mean that the carrier will have to shift its aircraft from more in-demand routes.

Moreover, Ethiopian’s strong presence in Singapore is already serving the purpose. Using its codeshare partnership with Singapore Airlines, passengers can fly extensively to Oceania via Singapore. With the ongoing pandemic, it is doubtful we will see Ethiopian fly to the seventh continent in the next few years.

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