on the fly: A look at the Ethiopian Airlines story
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Ethiopia doesn’t play a major role in the global economy. However, its national airline, Ethiopian Airlines, is a major player in global aviation. It is also Africa’s largest carrier and has a strong history of profits and expansion.
The reasons behind its success are many, including its supportive home government, Ethiopia’s large overseas diaspora, and the geographic centrality of Addis Ababa for many international journeys. The country also happens to be Africa’s second most populous country with about 115m people (only Nigeria has more).
Thanks to these advantages, Ethiopian Airlines has been able to build an impressive network capturing a diverse array of traffic flows. We can get a sense of what these flows are using Diio by Cirium, the industry’s leading airline planning system. A schedule query in Diio immediately reveals the importance of Dubai to Ethiopian’s network. Likewise critical are other major African cities like Johannesburg and Nairobi. India’s significance is clear as well.
Ethiopian Airlines often provides the most convenient flights for people connecting to points in Africa, especially, from Europe, North America, South America, the Middle East, and Asia. Its Washington flights, for example, while catering to the many Ethiopian-Americans living in the US capital, also moves Washington business, government, or tourism travelers to just about anywhere they need to go in Africa.
This quarter, Ethiopian Airlines is roughly the same size as it was in the same quarter of 2019, before the pandemic upended global markets. Data from Diio shows that it exited some routes, including Doha, Madrid, Singapore. It did add some new routes, however, like Chennai and Geneva.
One thing that’s changed a lot since the pandemic is the airline’s previous exposure to China. Guangzhou, Shanghai, and Beijing were its three busiest markets measured by ASKs in 2019. With China flights greatly curtailed, its busiest markets by ASKs today are in North America, led by Washington and Toronto. It also serves cities like Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires, New York, and Chicago, making for a truly global network. That network is also boosted by membership in the Star Alliance, and by a collection of airline investments throughout Africa (Zambia Airways and ASKY in Togo, for example).
To be clear, Addis Ababa as an origin or destination market is rather small, which is why not many foreign carriers serve the city (Emirates, Turkish Airways, and Kenya Airways are among the few). This could change over time as Ethiopia’s population and economy grow.
NEXT WEEK: How is the Europe-East Asia airline market performing?
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