Ethiopian Airlines Group has successfully rebounded to pre-pandemic operational levels and is now focused on further expanding its fleet and network, according to the company’s CEO, Mesfin Tasew. Speaking to aviation daily at the IATA AGM in Istanbul, Tasew expressed the airline’s optimism and outlined its ambitious plans for the future.
With around 140 aircraft currently in operation, Ethiopian Airlines Group is forecasting a fleet size of 271 aircraft by 2035. To achieve this, the airline is considering the addition of at least 130 more aircraft, as older planes will need to be replaced. Tasew stated that the next round of aircraft orders is expected to be made by the end of the year, with a mix of narrowbody and widebody aircraft being sought.
Tasew mentioned that the Embraer E2 series and the Airbus A220 are potential candidates for the lower end of aircraft size, while the Boeing 737 MAX and Airbus A320neo are being considered as narrowbody contenders. On the widebody side, the airline is evaluating the Boeing 777X and Airbus A350-1000 for its order.
As of June 5, Ethiopian Airlines’ order book consists of 29 aircraft, including 17 Boeing 737 MAXs, five Boeing 777Fs, one Boeing 787-9, and six Airbus A350-1000s.
While Ethiopian Airlines continues to receive new aircraft, the global supply chain issues affecting the aviation industry have also impacted the carrier. Tasew acknowledged critical shortages of components, particularly for the A350s and 787s, which could pose challenges during the high-demand summer season. However, the airline has managed to avoid grounding any aircraft thus far.
In terms of network expansion, Ethiopian Airlines has set its sights on reaching Australia, the only continent it currently does not serve, potentially via Singapore. Additionally, the airline is planning to increase services to the Americas, with a focus on expanding flights to Toronto and obtaining traffic rights for Montreal. In Europe, Madrid and Lisbon are among the destinations being considered.
Ethiopian Airlines, a member of the Star Alliance, is based at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, from where it serves a network of 125 passenger destinations – 21 of them domestic – and 44 freighter destinations. And in total flies to more destinations in Africa than any other carrier.
Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, Ethiopian Airlines has reported slightly higher passenger numbers of 13 million for the current fiscal year, compared to 12.2 million in 2019. Tasew highlighted that the airline’s revenue has met targets and is expected to be approximately 50% higher than pre-COVID levels, partly attributed to the significant contribution of cargo operations to the overall revenue.
As Ethiopian Airlines continues to navigate the post-pandemic landscape, the carrier remains focused on its growth trajectory, aiming to solidify its position as a leading African airline while expanding its global reach and providing exceptional services to passengers worldwide.