Business leaders have hailed the ‘immense’ potential of Manchester Airport’s first ever service to Ethiopia.
Ethiopian Airlines is to start operating a four-times-a-week service to Addis Ababa, the capital of the East African nation.
The flights – the first to the country departing from outside London – will start on December 1.
The route will unlock connections to 58 countries across the African continent.
Bosses say it will benefit 400,000 people in the airport’s catchment area who currently travel to Addis Ababa and other key African cities via other airports.
Providing a key business link, the launch will also bolster the airport’s pivotal place as the key hub connecting the north to the world.
Ethiopian, which flies to more destinations in Africa than any other carrier, will operate the B-787 on the route with business and economy classes.
Airport bosses say it will serve as a key trade route for northern businesses, opening up fresh export opportunities and delivering cost and journey time savings to those already operating there.
Andrew Cowan, Manchester Airport CEO, said the route underlines the ‘critical role’ Manchester Airport plays in connecting people and businesses of the north.
He added: “While we have served a number of African holiday destinations for many years, this service will provide vital connectivity to one of the continent’s most important hub airports.
“That will unlock dozens more destinations across Africa through Ethiopian Airlines’ unrivalled network, meaning the North will be better connected to this part of the world than ever before.”
Tewolde Gebremariam, Ethiopian Airlines CEO, described his elation at starting flights to Manchester.
He said passengers would be able to travel on to 58 African destinations on aircraft including the B-787 and A350.
He added: “The socio-economic implication of the new flight is immense. With vast investment and trade potentials between Africa and the UK, the upcoming flight holds the promise of boosting trade, investment and tourism with ample business opportunities for investors and business people from both regions.”
Ethiopian have been flying form London Heathrow since 1973.
Sheona Southern, managing director at Marketing Manchester, said the new service from the north is a great coup.
She said it would open up Greater Manchester to visitors, businesses, investors and students from a new continent – and worked perfectly with the region’s ‘internationalism’.
She added: “Manchester has set a clear target to become a top global city by 2035. If we’re to achieve this aim, it’s vital that we continue to increase our connections with major international hubs, increasing the opportunities for global networks to choose Manchester as a place to visit, meet, invest and study in.
“In this respect, this new route with Ethiopian Airlines is a huge step forward.”
The University of Manchester recently forged links with Ethiopia by offering scholarships to the country because of chancellor Lemn Sissay’s heritage.
Joanne Jacobs, senior international officer, said: “Our scholarships to Ethiopia give opportunities to talented young professionals to come to Manchester to study master’s degrees not available locally.
“As a result we’ll be building stronger links than ever before with staff and students travelling between Manchester and Addis Ababa, so this announcement is very timely.”
Lemn Sissay, who was brought up by foster parents in Greater Manchester and later discovered his Ethiopian heritage, said: “My father was a pilot for Ethiopian airlines and it makes me really proud that they are coming to Manchester. Ethiopia is a great destination and for the north to be connected to the world through Manchester is wonderful to see.”
Ethiopia is the fourth largest economy in sub-Saharan Africa and is is predicted to be the third largest by 2025.
UK exports to Ethiopia grew from £80 million in 2010 to £108 million in 2014.
Among those businesses already operating in Ethiopia are Tesco, Unilever, Diageo, Glaxo Smithkline and Diageo, but other British firms have invested in sectors such as mining, food and drink, the leather industry and renewable energy.
The top UK exports to Ethiopia are: power generating machinery and equipment, general and specialised industrial machinery, transport equipment, beverages, manufacturing articles, chemical materials and products.
Ethiopia is Africa’s second largest country population, with its hub able to provide onward connectivity, particularly to sub-Saharan countries.
Ethiopian Airlines was founded in 1945 and from its hub in Addis Ababa has connections to 58 cities across Africa, and a further 67 international routes across Europe, Asia and the Americas.
Ethiopia is the latest in a series of new long-haul routes, which include Beijing, Houston, San Francisco, Singapore, Muscat, Boston and Los Angeles.
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