Ethiopian Airlines, Africa’s largest carrier, is expanding its global presence in two different ways. The airline has announced new cargo flights between China and South America, as well as plans to expand its operations in the Balkan region.
In terms of its cargo operations, Ethiopian Airlines’ subsidiary, Ethiopian Cargo, has added a new service between Xiamen, China and Sao Paulo and Santiago de Chile.
Beginning 10th February, the airline will operate two weekly flights between China and South America, with a technical stopover in Addis Ababa.
In addition, Ethiopian plans to launch two weekly cargo flights between Shenzhen and Liege from 17 February and will utilize its Boeing 777 Freighters on all of these routes. Ethiopian Airlines Group CEO, Mesfin Tasew, said the new flights would “contribute to improving connectivity between China, Africa, Europe and South America”.
Ethiopian Airlines launched these new flights as part of its 50th anniversary of passenger service to China. Ethiopian’s cargo and passenger services already serve six other Chinese destinations – Guangzhou, Shanghai, Zhengzhou, Changsha, Wuhan, and Chengdu.
The airline currently flies to over 130 destinations, using both belly-hold capacity and dedicated cargo services. The fleet includes Boeing 737, 767-300, 777, 787, Airbus A350-900, and Bombardier Dash 8-400. Ethiopian Airlines is also implementing a 15-year strategic plan called Vision 2035, which aims to make it one of the world’s 20 most competitive airlines.
Ethiopian Airlines eyes Balkan region for future expansion
In terms of its expansion in Southeast Europe, Ethiopian Airlines has its eyes on the Balkan markets. The airline currently uses Vienna, Athens, Istanbul, and Zurich to cover these markets but has a big vision for expansion in Europe and Southeastern Europe.
Speaking at the recent New Air Gateway Conference in Ljubljana, Saba Kassaye, Ethiopian Airlines’ Regional Manager for Austria and Eastern Europe, revealed the company’s plans to study and open new routes in the region.
Ms. Kassaye said, “Currently, we are using Vienna, Athens, Istanbul, and Zurich to cover these markets. We have a big vision, especially for our expansion in Europe and Southeastern Europe. Destination-wise, we will have to see, but we have a list of countries that we are planning to study and open within the region”.
Ethiopian Airlines aims to nearly double its number of destinations to 207 and double its fleet to 271, as part of its Vision 2035 plan.
The airline is a member of the Star Alliance, but it does not operate to the former Yugoslav markets. However, it has a General Sales Agent for the region, TAL Aviation, which covers Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Serbia, and Slovenia, according to EX-YU Aviation.
Air Serbia’s CEO, Jiri Marek, has also expressed interest in cooperating with Ethiopian Airlines if it were to consider Belgrade as a stopover for fifth freedom rights towards the US.
“Ethiopian Airlines is quite known that they utilise some European cities as a stopover for fifth freedom rights towards the US because of the distance. So, if they would consider Belgrade, we would be very open for cooperation”.
Demand from former Yugoslav markets to Africa is mainly limited to the Maghreb region and Egypt, with Turkish Airlines currently holding the main transfer airline to Africa.
Ethiopian Airlines’ goal of expanding its operations in Southeast Europe reflects its strategy to connect Africa to the world and to expand outside of Africa.