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Ethiopian Airlines will soon embark cargo flights direct from regional cities, Bahir Dar and Mekelle, to multiple European and Middle Easter destinations. This will be the first time that the regional cities will host cargo flights for the flag carrier which currently uses its hub in the capital Addis Ababa for such departures.
Transport Minister Diriba Kuma says the move is aimed at encouraging investment in regional cities by providing businesses there direct access to global markets.
Diriba told parliament that Ethiopian Airlines conducted 281 charter flights carrying 21,748 tons of perishable goods in the first seven months of the budget year which embarked on July 8, 2011. Significant amount of products were also flown alongside passengers.
Expanding the cargo service, Ethiopian has finalized preparations to launch flights to carry flower and meat to European and Middle Eastern destinations direct from regional cities, Diriba said while presenting the transport sector’s seven month performance to lawmakers.
The airliner will soon start carrying meat products to Middle Eastern markets, according to Wogayehu Terefe, Ethiopian Manager of Public Relations and Publications.
“The flights planned for departure from Mekelle and Bahir Dar are mainly arranged to operate to the Middle East destinations Dubai and Jeddah,” Wogayehu told Capital on Friday.
The airliner says the upcoming direct flights will assure fresh delivery of meat products that could perish if they suffer delays. The frequency of the flights will be determined as per demand, added Ethiopian’s Wogayehu.
According to the Transport Ministry’s report submitted to parliament, Ethiopian pocketed record revenues during the seven months of the current 2011/12 fiscal year enabling the flag carrier to remain in the black absorbing fuel price hikes that heavily injured the aviation industry with severe impacts seen in other African carriers.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) says African airlines are vulnerable to external shocks like a spike in the oil and jet fuel prices.
IATA forecasts African carriers to record a combined 100 million dollar loss in 2012 though globally, the industry is expected to return a three billion dollar profit.
The increase of expenses mainly due to soaring fuel costs, representing about 50 Ethiopian’s overall costs, has affected Ethiopian Airlines. Fuel expense in the first six months of the budget year for example nearly doubled to 8.1 billion birr from 4.1 billion birr of same period in the previous year.
The Transport Ministry report reads that Ethiopian revenues also surged to help the carrier sustain profitability. During the six months, income grew by over 50 percent.
The airliner collected about 20 billion birr during the seven month period.
Ethiopian has transported 2.5 million and 321,000 passengers respectively on international and domestic networks during the seven month period.