June 16, 2012
Ethiopian Airlines will start flying to Sao Paulo, Brazil in December this year, the first scheduled flight to South America for the Ethiopian national flag carrier.
Ethiopian will launch a thrice weekly flight to Sao Paulo with Dreamlinner aircraft which the airline expects to receive from Boeing in August and September.
Ethiopian CEO, Tewolde Gebremariam, told Flight Global that the national flag carrier will operate the Sao Paulo flight via Lome, Togo where its West African venture ASKY Airline is based. Lome is planned to be Ethiopian West African hub. ASKY will be used as a feeder to Ethiopian to the Sao Paulo flight.
According to Tewolde, Ethiopian will have a "heavy emphasis" on Brazil, China and India and claims these countries will drive the "huge growth" central to its Vision 2025 strategy. Ethiopian will also broaden its African base reach, Tewolde adds, with a hub in Southern Africa - in Zambia or Tanzania - as well as a central hub in "one of the Congos", to complement its base at Addis Ababa.
Ethiopian will start new flights to Toronto in July and to the Namibian capital Windhoek following in October-November.
Tewolde stresses that the carrier, whose financial year ends in June, is profitable, even if it "might not have been as profitable as expected" in the Vision 2025 plan, owing to fuel prices. "But growth has been beyond our expectations," he says, indicating it has achieved a traffic rise of 30 percent and forecasts a repeat for the next fiscal year.
He says Ethiopian is trying to redress an imbalance, claiming 80 percent of African traffic is carried by non-African carriers. "It has to be fair," he says.
Ethiopian's mainline operation is one of seven business units which make up a broader aviation group, and Tewolde says some of these other activities must be developed to achieve its strategic plan. It has invested heavily in its training academy, with the first multi-crew pilot licence cadets coming onboard in January 2013, and intends to enhance its maintenance business.