A Signature Media Publication

Bridging the Africa Connection

Ali Mohammed, area manager Gulf for Ethiopian Airlines talks to TBMEs Charmaine Fernz about the key initiatives being undertaken in the region and new business opportunities….


Celebrating its 70th anniversary globally, Ethiopian Airlines is the fastest growing carrier in Africa with a strategic focus on its growth. The airline currently connects to more than 100 destinations globally across five continents and 54 destinations in Africa.

The airline has a very vast network connecting almost every city and country in Africa. This year is special as we celebrate 70 years of service. Our connections from Dubai is strong with three flights to Addis Ababa and thereon, connecting to 54 destinations in Africa. We also have five cargo flights from Dubai. In addition, the region has seen a deployment of an increased capacity with the latest aircraft right from Airbus 350 to Boeing 787 and 777.

The current two flights from Dubai are operated with a widebody aircraft while the third flight used a narrow body aircraft. This is, however, being upgraded to a widebody aircraft too. With increasing demand from tourist, trader and medical tourist, the airline is looking at a possibility of boost capacity from three to five flights in future. However, no decisions have yet been taken.

Global Growth

The first half of 2017 has seen the airline expand globally to seven destinations namely Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe), Antananarivo (Madagascar), Conakry (Guinea), Oslo (Norway), Chengdu (China), Jakarta (Indonesia) and Singapore. Our relationship with the UAE goes back 38 years so it has just strengthened from year to year becoming an important connection in our network. Subsequently, we are also keenly working to enhance capacity from the region keeping the Expo 2020 in mind.

The Group has also commenced a thrice-weekly service to Bahrain from Addis Ababa Bole International Airport. This new service connects the airline to 10 destinations in the Middle East namely Beirut, Dammam, Doha, Jeddah, Kuwait, Dubai, Madinah, Muscat, Riyadh, and Sharjah.

In order to further enhance numbers from this region, the airline is working with corporates who have offices based in Africa as well as globally. Plans are also underway working with key tour operators in the leisure market offering discounted fares.

Business Enhancement

The airline has focused on the medical tourism segment in an aggressive way. The opportunity was tapped in order to serve the growing medical travel market and to medically connect Africa to the rest of the world. Ethiopian Airlines has also been collaborating with hospitals to introduce a medical travel package to popular medical destinations including the UAE.

Keeping with the business diversification, a Medical Travel Agreement was inked with Thumbay Hospital to collaborate and introduce a medical travel package. The airline expects to target around 3,000 medical tourists in the first year of this agreement.

As per the agreement, it encompasses end-to-end facilitation and coordination of medical travel needs of clients from initial contact up to return to home base after receiving the medical treatment. As per the agreement, both parties have collaborated in the promotion and facilitation of medical travel services from Africa to UAE. As value-added services, Thumbay Hospital will provide for Ethiopian Airlines business class passengers free access to the Hospital’s Marhaba lounge with complimentary basic health check-up.

With the Dubai government seriously focusing on the medical tourism segment, this is an opportune business expansion for the airline. Based on collaborations, it has been noticed that packages are being picked up especially from East Africa. The partnerships with hospitals are not just restricted to Dubai but the entire UAE.

Moving Ahead

The airline is also keen to promote tourism into the destination. In this regard, we would work closely with the Embassy to showcase the varied tourist attractions such as cultural and religious attractions among the many. The growth of tourism will in turn boost passenger numbers for the airline. This growth in passenger numbers is coupled with a strategic plan with aircraft growth of the airline.

Ethiopian Airlines believe in a mixed fleet concept taking into account the current financials and a value for money deal. It is undoubtedly less expensive to have one type of aircraft be it in terms of training, pilots, crew and even maintenance. However, from a service perspective, a mixed fleet is the better way ahead.

With a strong forecast charted out, the airline is keen to further enhance its presence in the region. This focus is being targeted with a structured view of its distribution channels wherein travel agent segment accounts for around 65 – 70% of the airline’s booking; followed by 20% bookings coming through the direct airline website and the rest 10 – 15% from local and regional offices.