Ethiopian Airlines Reduces China Flights Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

With concerns growing over the spread of the coronavirus to other parts of the world, Ethiopian Airlines is reducing its flights to China. Amidst rising criticism and despite the fact nearly every major world airline has suspended flights to mainland China, Ethiopian Airlines has, so far, continued flying to the virus stricken country from Addis Ababa.

Ethiopian Airlines will replace the B-777 and A350 with the B-787 on routes to China. Photo: Ethiopian Airlines

In a move probably more financially based than medically motivated, Africa’s largest airline has decided to cut the capacity of flights to the East Asian country. For February 2020, Ethiopian Airlines has changed the aircraft operating on its Beijing, Chengdu, Guangzhou, and Shanghai flights. Instead of deploying a Boeing 777 and an Airbus A350, the African airline will now use a Boeing 787-8. This will cut capacity by between 20 and 45 percent, depending on the route.

Other African airlines have suspended flights to China

The fact that Ethiopian Airlines refuses to cancel its flights to China despite fellow African airlines Kenya Airways and Rwandair doing so remains alarming. In fact, Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta voiced his concern over Ethiopian Airlines’ decision, telling international news outlet Quartz Africa the following:


“Our worry as a country is not that China cannot manage the disease. Our biggest worry is diseases coming into areas with weaker health systems like ours.”

Ethiopian Airlines is the largest airline in Africa. Photo: Ethiopian Airlines

Over the past ten years, Ethiopian Airlines has become the primary gateway for people visiting Africa with more connections to the continent than any other airline. And with more flights to China than any other African airline, critics believe that the airline’s decision to not suspend flights is because the Ethiopian government does not want to upset China.

Ethiopian Airlines has no intention of suspending flights to China

When speaking to reporters on Saturday, again covered by Quartz Africa, top Ethiopian Airlines executive Tewolde Gebremariam let it be known the country’s national flag carrier had no intentions of canceling flights to China, saying:


“It will not be morally acceptable to stop flying to China today because they have a temporary problem…We stand with our Chinese brothers and sisters.”

So far, there have been no confirmed cases of coronavirus in Africa, yet the risk of an outbreak remains high for a continent that is ill-prepared for such an emergency. As of today, Sunday 9 February, another 89 people died from the coronavirus on Saturday, taking the official death toll to 813.

At the same time, the number of confirmed cases has risen to 27,100 in the Wuhan epicenter area, while in other parts of China and around the world the number of confirmed cases is now greater than 37,000.

While not looking to incite panic or stoke fears, experts around the world say that the real number of people infected with coronavirus could be ten times more than the official Chinese figure.

The coronavirus has a 14 day incubation period

By continuing to fly from Addis Ababa to China, Ethiopian Airlines is opening up the African continent to the risk of more infections. Yes, health screening is being done at the airport, but with as long as a 14 day incubation period, it is risky knowing that many travelers show little or no symptoms.

Ethiopian Airlines will continue flying to China despite the risk of coronavirus. Photo: Ethiopian Airlines Photo: Ethiopian Airlines

It would appear, for now at least, that Ethiopian Airlines has no intention of suspending flights. One way this could change is if other counties refuse to accept Ethiopian flights landing due to the coronavirus risk.

What do you think of Ethiopian Airlines’ stance on China flights and the coronavirus? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments section.


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With all these airlines stopping or reducing flights to China.
After this is all over with the coronavirus.
Can China acutely make airlines to rebook there slots back into these airports again.
Or does it just go back to normal.
The way I see the airlines have given up these slots due to this virus.
What would happen if say this was in the US or Canada and them.


I urge the Kenyan government to close Kenyan border to Ethiopia,their airline should as well not be allowed in jkia grounds.Theyre risking the lives of Africans as a whole because if one person infected of the virus lands in Africa chances of many people will get infected.Not good,how will it be managed in Africa where we have poor health facilities?

Henok Assefa

I think the decision is being mindless and greedyness I’m ethiopian but not as I’m Ethiopian also as human being the ethiopian air line should not do this silly thing the air line must alert the other people life . they put the human life in dangerous situations think for other country. If this happen in my country as well the rest of african country that became the end of the world no one can’t stop for those have such a dense population like Africa .


It will be a major health risk for Africa if the coronavirus will arrive to the continent. Ethiopian airlines is gambling with life for the sake of profit. Ethiopian airlines pilots should refuse to fly too. I ask every african to boycott Ethiopian airlines in protest of the situation. Life will not be replaced by money or profit. In a population over 80 millions one person is enough to import to Ethiopia this deadly diseases. I wish they give good reason why they gambling with the life of many poor Africans.


Not accepting Ethiopian flights couldn’t be a solution unless all other carriers which fly to china also denied entry either directly or indirectly . Passengers who originate from China must be denied entry, . Passengers’ travel history must be traced regardless of from where they boarded a plane.


Ethiopia airlines stop play Gambling

Cris du vere

I think Ethiopian airlines are being irresponsible. Please think of the danger you are putting ALL of Africa in. We do not have the man power to control it. Once in. It will spread like wildfire in Africa. Please rather be precautionary. China will understand and not take it personally. If the shoe was on the other foot. They would not hesitate to block you.


I think they need to suspend all outgoing flights until they can contain the spread of the virus.
The risk of spread is too high and the potential loss of life not worth the risk.


It is very sad that Ethiopian airlines is still flying to China. Our poor country cannot cope up with the new disease if it gets in the country. Knowing the poor medical treatments in the country, I doubt if the authorities will ever know even if someone in the country gets the virus!

A emishaw

What’s the point of stopping flights without closing the borders? This could be ridiculous. As Chinese or other airlines are flying to the continent, whether we like it or not they’ll bring the virus. Instead it would have been better if there’s a Center to put people who lands from China to stay in these specific Centers for longer period. Don’t forget every move is politically and economically motivated in our poor corner of the world. Let God help us!


good explanation my dear


It is imperative to always remember Africa is weak in terms of technology. We cant quickly detect and manage things like this. I think all African countries should shut Ethiopian Airlines out. They should not land.


Dear Sir,
It is a dangerous virus please stop flight to china we are frequent flyer ethiopian airlines I dont want take risk and I am living in cameroon as you know here in weaker medical.

Richard Ham

They are responsible for transporting the virus to Africa and beyond….common sense is not common


That just is not okay. They are risking the lives of the rest of Africa and maybe the world. If they are accepting flights from Cbina in the midst of this terrible disease flights from Ethiopian airlines should be banned or at least quarantined for 2 weeks. And don’t go by travel visas alone as many citizens of other countries have passports for both countries somehow and may be able to conceal their travel history.


Can Ethiopian afford not to stop fly to China and jeopardize his own people and the African people safety because of money or politics?

Anil Vasant Ghadge

Ethiopian should fly to China


I am really ashamed of Ethiopian airlines and Ethiopian governments not stopping flight to China that’s irresponsible.
They don’t care about Ethiopian people and the Ethiopian air crew.
You should know what happens if the Corona virus spreads in Ethiopia it will be disaster.


I am really ashamed of Ethiopian airlines and Ethiopian governments not stopping flight to China that’s irresponsible.
They don’t care about Ethiopian people and the Ethiopian air crew.
You should know what happens if the Corona virus spreads in Ethiopia it will be disaster.


Ethiopian Airlines is making this ia politicalssue than a rational thing to consider stopping the flight. It is heartless and so embarrassing. As an Ethiopian I feel ashamed of the illogical decision the Airlines is making. I hope people boycott the Airlines.


The Ethiopa airline stance on china is so bad, they should remember health should come first and life has no dublicate, the airline should please stop china flight now.


They should be stop flying to Nigeria because what they are interested on is the money not the safety of the African continent

Miguna ncurubi

African countries should reject Ethiopia airline into their country and Ethiopia nationals moving to other African countries.They are driven by greed


They put their interest before care of their people and its unethical and indecent.

Marcelo Iglesias

They love money, they don’t mind of people health, only money. Judges will oblige them to return the money they charge for those flights


Couldn’t get it why many of the comments are targeting Ethiopian decision without any kind of justification for their argument,Many airlines including those from of our own continent has stopped flying because “They didn’t have any passengers, so canceling flights was probably more of an economic decision than an epidemiologic decision,” according to Dr. Dr. Tom Frieden, former director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and president and chief executive officer of Resolve to Save Lives when he told VOA…Ethiopian is the flag-carrier for Africa not only for Ethiopia and as an African we should be weary… Read more »