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Ethiopian Airlines to become another Emirates?

April 13, 2018 Headline News No Comments Email Email

As Ethiopian Airlines prepares to launch the world’s first non-stop service from Africa to Chicago, one aviation observer has called the carrier “unquestionably the leading airline in Africa”, able to “compete with many European airlines as an equal rival” and destined for greater things.

An article in, a site specialising in aviation employment, is headed Will Ethiopian Airlines Become New Emirates? The title may be deliberately provocative, for Ethiopian is still a long way from rivalling the scope and power of Emirates. The author goes on to point out, however, that over the past 10 years, Ethiopian Airlines increased its passenger numbers fourfold and it is expected to carry 10 million passengers this year.

Ethiopian is the largest aviation holding company in Africa, which is the world’s fastest-growing continent by far, in population terms. Ethiopian is privately owned, not run by a government – which in Africa may be a very good thing.

Ethiopian Airlines B787-8 Dreamliner

The SKYTRAX-certified four-star global airline operates one of the world’s newest fleets. Its fleet includes new environmentally friendly aircraft such as Airbus A350, Boeing 787-8, Boeing 787-9, Boeing 777-300ER, Boeing 777-200LR, Boeing 777-200 Freighter and Bombardier Q-400 double cabin, with an average fleet age of five years.

Ethiopian’s main hub, Addis Ababa, is conveniently placed in Africa. It is 3659 miles (5889 km) from London, a flight lasting under eight hours. Johannesburg, for comparison, is 5617 miles (9039 km) from London and the flight takes nearly 12 hours.

During a recent visit to Africa, former US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said: “Ethiopia is becoming a critical hub for intercontinental traffic for people travelling from the US.”

Non-stop flights from Addis Ababa to Chicago, using a B787 Dreamliner, will begin on 9 June 2018. The flights will stop in Dublin on the return leg.

The airline advises that westbound, passengers from the African continent will connect to Chicago and beyond through the airline’s Addis Ababa hub in the late evenings; likewise, eastbound travellers from the US will connect through to other African points in the morning through Addis.

“In both cases, the connectivity is designed in such a way that we are able to avail one of the shortest total travel times for our customers.”

Group chief executive of Ethiopian Airlines, Tewolde GebreMariam, said: “Chicago will be our fourth destination in the US and our seventh in the Americas. We will be filling a critical air connectivity vacuum as our flights will be the only direct service between Chicago and Africa.

“Chicago is the main hub of our Star Alliance partner, United Airlines and the flight will be operated together with United to avail the best product for travellers from all over the US connecting to more than 55 destinations in Africa.

“The flight will further boost the growing economic and people-to-people relations between the US and Africa in general and Ethiopia in particular by enabling greater flow of trade, investment and tourism.”

The only fly in the ointment for Ethiopian Airlines is political instability in its home country. ​On 16 February 2018, the Government of Ethiopia declared a State of Emergency.

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) advises travellers to reconsider their need to travel to Ethiopia.

On Tuesday, DFAT advised on Ethiopia: “Avoid protests and large gatherings as they could become violent. Monitor local media for up-to-date information and follow the advice of local authorities. Reconsider your need to travel to Ethiopia, including Addis Ababa, due to ongoing civil unrest, the threat of terrorist attack and violence in many parts of the country. Be vigilant at all times.”

Written by Peter Needham

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