IN April 1946, Ethiopian Airlines made its maiden flight from Addis Ababa to Cairo and breathed a lease of life into a dormant African aviation industry and rightly called it self, ‘The Spirit of Africa’.
Short as the weekly flight could have been, it was a milestone in shaping the future of the aviation industry on the continent.
Ethiopian Airlines is Africa’s oldest airline and apart from scoring that first with the flight to Egypt, it has continued to perform well in the African aviation industry.
It has in its existence taken some battering from heavy competition in and outside Africa, among the competitors being South African Airline, Kenya Airways and British. Airways among others and the only way to counter this was to set out a strategic plan.
The just ended five-year plan brought success to reinstall the airline among Africa’s finest and is an example of how well an airline could be managed by maximizing on profits.
They last year posted profits in excess of $123 million, and that is at a time when the airline is in the processing of acquiring a new fleet of planes, both from Boeing and Airbus.
But an outside image of the airline does not actually paint the correct picture of their vision, strengthen and dominance.
As a result of heavy traffic, for example, and the inevitable challenge of handling a
lot more clients in transit via Addis Ababa, Ethiopian Airline will soon start constructing a five-star hotel in Addis Ababa with funds from the China Africa Development Fund. Chinese constructor China Hinan has already been engaged.
The airline has a maintenance department that repairs and overhauls Boeing plan engines and the trust from Boeing goes to extremes that the airlines makes all sorts of cables from their Bole International Airport headquarters for all the flying Boeing aircrafts and last year raked in $ 33 million.
The cables are flown to the Boeing base in the US once done.
For every plane bought, Ethiopian Airlines has a state-of-the-art engine testing machine that checks for any manufacturers malfunction before the engines are let off into the air.
All this is for the ‘zero mistake’ campaign the airline has.
And at their headquarters, the airline has a reputable Academy that does not only train its own pilots, but thosefrom other airlines including competitors like Kenyan and South African Airways.
Ethiopian airline has a successful cargo wing which carries more cargo on the continent and then the peak of land infrastructure are the two Boeing Simulators.
“We believe we have come from a good past and having achieved so much to reach where we are, we believe we can not push into the next generation and we are well on track for that.
“Vision 2025í is our new plan, we want to achieve a lot of things and we are sure we can achieve them, we are buying as many as 34 aircraft,” were the word’s of company chief executive officer Tewolde Gabre-Mariam.
The airline plans to become the most competitive and leading aviation group in Africa by providing safe, market driven and customer focused passenger and cargo transport, aviation training, flight catering, MRO and ground services by 2025.
This vision 2025, explain what the airline wishes to achieve, though a huge mountain to climb, as Mr Gabre-Mariam said.
He believes this is achievable going by their ability to beat all targets in the 2010 strategic plan.
He said in the just ended five-year strategic plan, his airline surpassed all targeted by raising its income to $1.3 billion when the target was $ 1 billion from the $390 million.
The 100 per cent Government owned company also raised its profitability last year to $123 million and with such a performance they see room for improvement, now it plans to up showing and increase.
He said in the airlines expansion plans, it would increase the number of passengers it flies from the 3.2 million they did last year to more than 18 million per year by 2025.
“We carried more people, we travelled more miles, we made more money we carried more goods and because of that, we see a lot of room for improvement.
“Besides, we have retained a significant number of staff and since human resource is our biggest asset, we are sure we can easily meet the 2025 targets,” he said.
Sitting high on the agenda of the 2025 vision is Zambia.
Ethiopian Airlines plans to turn Zambia into a regional hub that would help the airline capture the lurking market in Central and Southern and all this is its bid to become Africa’s best airliner.
Gabre-Mariam said Zambia is an area best suited to help their airline grow bigger by catering for all its passengers and planes that would be visiting the region before flying back to Bole International Airport in Ethiopia.
Zambia would be picking up all passengers in the region and fly them to Ethiopia.
Apart from been economically impressive and being one of the airlines most trusted routes, Lusaka is a well located and would be only the second hub on the continent outside Addis Ababa.
ìIn our vision 2025, we have Lusaka high on our programme to become a hub for the central and Southern Africa for Ethiopian Airline, this will receive all our customers from the region and bring them to Addis,î he said.
The Airlineís only other hub is in Lome, Togo which was handling handling the business in the hugely populous West Africa.
Though giving no dates, this would happen in the next few months as it continues on its expansion programme in which it hopes to grow by more than 500 percent in the vision 2025.
Ethiopian Airlines runs a daily flight into Lusaka.
He said that first, and as a result of increased traffic between Zambia and Addis Ababa, the Airlines would make a direct flight between Lusaka and Addis Ababa instead of triangular route.
Zambia is a drop and pick up point for the airline whose plane, mainly the Boeing 737-800 starts off from Harare Zimbabwe.
And another first to its long list of impressive feats, Ethiopians is taking obsession to outgrow its African rivals to a whole new level.
It has acquired four new jumbo-jets from Boeing, the Boeing 777-200 LR (long Range), three of which have already delivered, the first planes to operate in Africa.
The planes were bought at a cost of $1.3 billion, making it the first African carrier to own and operate the Long-Range aircraft.
The Boeing 777-200LR, though carries 321 passengers has been described as the worldís most success plane and with the latest high-tech on the plane and greater fuel capacity, it can fly 17 hours non-stop.
This makes the trip to as far as China non-stop a lot shorter as unlike other jests, it does not needed to stop over for refueling.
The Long Range Aircraft is the first of its kind in Africa and the four were just part of the airline wish to increase its fleet from the current 46 to 115 at the expiry of its 2025 strategic plan.
And with the arrival of the 777-200LR, Ethiopian Airlines would on May 1 commence new flights to Hangzhou, one of the most renowned and prosperous cities in China to add to other three destinations in China.
Hangzhou, located in Zhejiang province, is an alternative to the busy Shanghai airport for those travelling to and from Shanghai as it is only 45 minutes away via Shanghai-Hangzhou high-speed train.
With the opening of the fourth destination in China, Ethiopian Airlines will expand dependable passenger and cargo handling services to traders, business people and tourists between China and Africa via the strategic business hub at Addis Ababa.
In addition to the five weekly flights to Hangzhou, Ethiopian provides daily services to Beijing and Guangzhou, plus four weekly flights to Hong Kong.
Another first is that Ethiopian Airlines is the first African airlines to connect the Peopleís Democratic Republic of China with Africa, starting with its first flight to Beijing on November 7, 1973.
With this next generation that the Ethiopian Airlines in getting to, it might just be The new Spirit of Africa.
Source :All Africa