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Receives first Dreamliner on August 17th
Ethiopian Airlines, one of Africa’s leading air service operators, announced that it made an unaudited profit of 732 million birr during the just ended fiscal year.
The operating profit for the Airlines reached about one billion birr or 155 percent higher than the previous fiscal year despite a 35 percent increase in fuel prices which reached 5.7 billion birr.
Tewolde Gebremariam CEO of Ethiopian said despite oil prices being unusually high at over USD 100 per barrel for a year and half and the decline in demand caused by the European debt crisis and the tepid US economic recovery, revenue grew by 37 percent and its capacity grew by 22 percent.
The CEO said airplanes tend to be capital-intensive investments, so their proportional cost is much higher than other industries. Ethiopian is a network carrier with 70 percent of air traffic passing through Addis Ababa and a maximum of 35 percent flying from Addis.
Tewolde said Ethiopian is approaching its 70th year anniversary and much newer gulf airlines like Emirates, ETIHAD and Qatar have larger fleet sizes and they have had to work hard to keep pace with dynamic air operators over the last eight years; so they are excited that Ethiopian has been able to grow in size by four fold over eight years.
In the 2004/2005 fiscal year Ethiopian earned USD 390 million, and just eight years later that figure is projected to skyrocket USD 2.5 billion.
The air operator had planned to be a USD 1 billion company by 2010 but exceeded that figure to reach USD 1.3 billion.
Its 2025 vision’s overarching objective is to continue the scaling up of profitable and sustainable growth to enhance its profitability and technology to make its staff, customers and financiers secure.
As part of Vision 2025 Ethiopian plans to operate more than 120 airplanes flying to 90 plus destinations internationally carrying over 18 million passengers and 710,000 tons of cargo per annum while employing more than 17,000 people.
Establishing subsidiary hubs around Africa is also part of its vision. It has set up one in Lome, Togo with subsidiary aircraft called ASKY in which Ethiopian has 40 percent share. Future hubs are planned for Southern and Central Africa.
Another plan is to make the airline an aviation group with seven strategic business units.
International airlines service will be the largest followed by cargo which will be a profit centre on its own as it’s the second largest source of revenue for the airline. Domestic and regional flights will be the third largest. The rest are: Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) to be restructured to serving Ethiopian and other air operators, the under expansion aviation academy, the ground services and catering.
Ethiopian also announced that the first Boeing 787 Dreamliner would be delivered at Bole International Airport on August 17, 2012. This will make it the first air operator outside of Japan to operate the aircraft.
“The new airplane is technologically more advanced. Over 60 percent of its body is manufactured from composite materials unlike the current ones built from aluminum,” Tewolde said adding that this makes it a lighter long-haul aircraft. The avionics has newer technology and the engine is a newer generation.
He said, for customers, the airplane is much more comfortable than previous models, with especially controlled humidity that prevents drowsiness and dryness which frequently occurs at 40,000 feet.
The aircraft Ethiopian is proud to note is 15-20 percent more efficient in fuel consumption, meaning it’s environmentally friendly because it produces less carbon emissions costs less to maintain, is less corrodible and can fly up to 12 hours non-stop with a full load of passengers, crew and cargo.
Tewolde said when the ownership cost and the operating cost are put together the Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft will be cheaper to operate and highly advanced in information and communication technology.
In anticipation of the aircraft delivery, Ethiopian technicians have been trained in the Boeing facility in Seattle, USA.
The CEO rebuffed suggestions that Ethiopian is not doing enough to diversify its market from Boeing into competitors like the European counterpart Airbus, saying once you purchase a substantial fleet of aircraft from one supplier it’s not beneficial in terms of economies of scale, maintenance cost, flight operations cost and other risks, although he admitted that diversification has been discussed for a while.
Meanwhile, Ethiopian three years ago has ordered 12 Airbus 350 aircraft, with the first airplane scheduled to be delivered in 2017, which will mean that at that time the airline will have 50 plus aircraft as its fleet.
Ethiopian had previously operated a smaller Turbo propeller aircraft called Fokker from a Dutch firm for years. Two years ago, Ethiopian acquired eight Bombardier Q400 aircraft that the airline deployed on domestic and regional routes. It is now in the process of receiving five Bombardier Q400 Next Generation aircraft valued at USD 160 million.
The Canadian firm said two of the five aircraft would be operated by Ethiopian Airlines and three by its affiliate, ASKY Airlines of Togo.
Ethiopian will operate a lighter weight version of the 787 Dreamliner aircraft to be suitable to the Bole International airport ground, which sits 7,700 feet above sea level.
The first flight of Ethiopian Dreamliner dubbed “The Dream Tour” will be on August 18, 2012 with a sightseeing flight to Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania the highest mountain range in Africa standing at its peak at 19,31 feet above sea level for around 270 invited guests, consisting of Ministers, Ambassadors, other VIPs, Ethiopian Sheba-miles Gold members and the media.
Thereafter starting from August 19, the Dreamliner will be operating on rotation basis to several African destinations such as Mombasa, Kenya, Harare, Zimbabwe, Lagos, Nigeria, Johannesburg, South Africa, Malabo Equatorial Guinea as well as Dubai, India’s commercial capital Mumbai, and the European cities of London and Frankfurt.
Ethiopian plans to start the rotating route in Mt. Kilimanjaro because it was the first air operator to reach the site back in the 1980s and since then has been operating there on and off.
The airline is expected to receive a total of five 787 Dreamliner aircraft before the end of 2012 and five more airplanes in 2014.