Challenges facing Ethiopian Airlines

May 2, 2006

No airline in Africa can justly claim to have worked as hard and for as long as Ethiopian Airlines (ET) to bring Africa together. For the past 60 years, this pioneering airline has been driven by a Pan-African vision and zeal to develop air links across the continent, thereby facilitating travel, trade, tourism and economic development in Africa.

Whilst busy bringing Africa together through improved air services, Ethiopian has also focused on being Africa’s link to the world by expanding its international route network. 

The commitment to excellence of Ethiopian Airlines is manifested by the significant investment it has made over the years in new aircraft, impressive aviation maintenance and training facilities, and human resources development. Self-reliance has been one of the airline’s watchwords, although it has not shied away from entering into mutually beneficial agreements with industry partners. 

While many other African airlines have been struggling to survive – saddled with huge debts and no clear business strategy – Ethiopian Airlines has been forging ahead and earning an international reputation for its safety and reliability, quality of service, modern fleet and comprehensive route network. Although Government-owned, Ethiopian has, for the most part, been spared the usual interference so often associated with state-owned African airlines. The credit for this goes, on the one hand, to successive Governments of Ethiopia which have recognised the airline’s valuable contribution to the country’s economy and, on the other, to the airline’s Management and Staff who, down the years, have become well known for their professional manner and personal integrity.

 Looking to the future, many pressing challenges still lie ahead for Ethiopian Airlines and it certainly cannot afford to rest on its laurels. Airline competition both within and outside Africa is intensifying. For example, other African carriers are now seeking to emulate Ethiopian’s success, big European airlines are gaining ground in Africa, while cash-rich airlines from the Middle East are flooding the African market with aircraft capacity, high frequencies and low fares.

 Other challenges include the rising cost of fuel, security and insurance; global and regional instability; restrictions on traffic rights and the slow liberalisation of air transport in Africa; poor aviation infrastructure in many parts of the continent; devaluation of currencies in some African countries and natural disasters.

Perhaps the greatest challenge facing Ethiopian Airlines in the immediate future is to increase its access to African and global air transport markets. This can only truly be achieved through entering win-win alliances and co-operation agreements with like-minded African and international airlines. Ethiopian Airlines recognises the critical importance of this and is working vigorously to achieve this goal.


– By Nick Fadugba
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