Ethiopian Airlines Celebrates 75 Years Of Flights

Yesterday marked a significant anniversary in the airline industry, as Ethiopian Airlines marked 75 years since its inaugural commercial flight. In the three-quarters of a century since then, the carrier has become the largest in Africa. Let’s take a look at the airline’s history, and how it has celebrated this special anniversary this week.

Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 787 Getty
Ethiopian was the first African airline to order the Boeing 787 ‘Dreamliner.’ Photo: Getty Images

How did it all start?

As Ethiopian Airlines announced yesterday, April 8th, 2021 marked the 75th anniversary of the carrier’s first-ever commercial flight. This inaugural service flew from the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa to its Egyptian counterpart, Cairo.

The flight was operated by a Douglas C-47 Skytrain, and flew via the Eritrean capital of Asmara. Ethiopian’s initial fleet consisted of five C-47s acquired from the US government. These previously served as military transport aircraft, and were a development of Douglas’s popular DC-3. Ethiopian’s C-47s had a mixed configuration, carrying passengers and cargo.

In the 75 years that have followed, Ethiopian has experienced impressive and consistent growth. According to Planespotters.net, its fleet today consists of 127 aircraft. These include some of the most modern and efficient twinjets in the skies, namely the Boeing 787 and Airbus A350. With this fleet, Ethiopian serves the fourth-largest number of countries of any airline.

Ethiopian Airlines DC-3
Ethiopian eventually operated the popular Douglas DC-3 as well as its military counterpart, the C-47.      Photo: Christian Hanuise via Wikimedia Commons

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Anniversary celebrations

The ongoing coronavirus is continuing to significantly impact the world of commercial aviation. As such, Ethiopian’s 75th birthday probably did not play out how the airline might previously have imagined. Nonetheless, the carrier was able to mark the occasion with a special event on a flight to Cairo. As established, this was Ethiopian’s first commercial route.

As well as celebrating its 75th anniversary, Ethiopian also has reasons to be cheerful in terms of its handling of the pandemic. After all, its CEO, Tewolde GebreMariam, stated that the carrier “[remains] the only commercial airline that hasn’t sought government bailout and didn’t lay off a single employee.” The anniversary commemoration represents the start of a year-long celebration under the motto “Celebrating 75 Years of Excellence.”

Ethiopian Airlines B787
Ethiopian will mark its 75th anniversary with a year of celebrations. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

A bright future

Looking to the future, Ethiopian plans to “continue to focus on [its] pillars with a renewed emphasis on sustainability.” These pillars, to which the airline attributes its success, are “human resource development, modern fleet, infrastructure development, and technology.”

One way that Ethiopian is well prepared for the future is the fact that, despite the pandemic, it has continued to expand its fleet. Last October, it bolstered its regional operations by receiving two Dash 8-400 turboprops. The following month, it also took delivery of a pair of Airbus A350s on the same day, to strengthen its long-haul services.

The airline has also shown a flexible approach in these challenging times by increasing its cargo services. After all, airfreight has become a crucial market during the pandemic. Last November, it launched a new cargo route from Seoul to Atlanta via Anchorage. It is also expecting the delivery of a converted Boeing 737 freighter next month. It will be interesting to see what the next quarter of a century brings for Ethiopian in terms of further growth.

Have you ever flown with Ethiopian Airlines during its 75-year history? If so, when did you do so, and where did Africa’s largest airline take you? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments!

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