One of Africa’s oldest and most successful airlines, Ethiopian Airlines, seems to have no limits in its quest for success, as it undertakes several projects to both ensure and sustain its competitiveness in a ruthless global airline industry.
Financing for housing project still ongoing, duty free goods for crew dispute resolved,
Tewolde Gebremariam Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Ethiopian told Capital one of the most important aspects of its expansion program is the Housing Project it is currently undertaking.
The construction of the project, which commenced in 2011 incorporating more than 2500 housing units, is to be undertaken in two phases on a plot with a total area of 313,472 square meters.
According to Tewolde the housing project’s start was slightly behind schedule because of the time it took to secure the land from the Addis Ababa City Administration, as well as the time it took to prepare the land for building, especially the time it took to evacuate previous residents of the area.
A Chinese company Zheiang Yefeng Construction is currently doing the first phase of the project on a turnkey basis, for a total cost of about 695.3 million birr. At least 25 percent of the construction work is already finished.
Ethiopian says construction on the first phase of the housing project is being undertaken through 30 percent contribution from employees and the rest is to be secured through investors. Negotiations are currently underway with financiers from Germany and Turkey to secure the remaining 70 percent. The deal for the construction of housing units in phase two has been left for future negotiations.
Another issue concerning employees of the airline was a dispute with customs authority, which had put severe limitation on duty free imports afforded to Ethiopian crew, the airline says the dispute has been resolved now.
Tewolde said previously the air carrier’s crews were allowed to import two bottles of liquor to Ethiopia duty free, but sometime last year, they were included in a frequent traveler list by customs, and as such weren’t allowed their duty free privileges. They eventually came to a compromise which allowed the crew to bring in one bottle of liquor duty free on their return flights.
Cargo terminal expansion well underway
Another part of Ethiopian’s ambitious portfolio is the cargo terminal expansion undertaken at Addis Ababa Bole International Airport. Divided in two phases, the project is carried out by ICM Airport Technics, a German based company, through a vendor financing agreement.
“With regards to the cargo terminal, we’ve been growing from 43,000 tons in 2005, to 182,000 tons per annum currently,” Tewolde said, adding that the congestion associated with increasing trade has necessitated the expansion of both the perishable cold room and the dry cargo storage room.
Ethiopian explained that the initial plan of the project was to build 300,000 tons per annum capacity cargo terminal. “But to align it with its vision 2025 goals, and the projected cargo growth in the next thirteen years, we thought that it would be too small; so we have expanded that to 1.2 million tons per annum in two phases,” explained the CEO.
In the meantime, as the current cargo terminal is getting to the point where it has reached its capacity, a temporary perishable cargo terminal with a capacity of 65,000 tons per annum is being constructed at a cost of 65 million birr.
Simulator classroom construction to be finished this year
A classroom is being constructed to accommodate a Q400 Bombardier airplane simulator and a Boeing 787 simulator by the Italian firm Elmi Olindo Company at a cost of 65 million birr, it is 75 percent complete now, and is projected to be completed at the end of the year according to Ethiopian.
Ethiopian however revealed that the construction of a bigger headquarters is being put on hold, pending the completion of other projects. The new headquarters, the design of which is already complete, is meant to accommodate Ethiopian’s growth, and replace the present headquarters which is more than 40 years old.
Flight routes to African destinations to be diversified and strengthened
Ethiopian which recently started flying to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and pushed back its plans to fly to the Brazilian industrial city of Sao Paulo to the end of March 2013, is still investigating increasing its flight routes, but this time on the African continent.
“We’re thinking of Blantyre – Malawi, Ndola – Zambia, Windhoek – Nambia, Nampula – Mozambique. These routes are under study, but we don’t have definite dates of when we plan to start flights to these places,” Tewolde told Capital, noting that outside Africa, Madrid, Spain is also in the pipeline.
Ethiopian also recently announced that it’s set to increase its flights to the commercial hub of Abidjan – Cote D’Ivoire, offering daily flights, effective November 25th. Currently service to Abidjan is thrice weekly.
“Nothing to worry about recent glitch with Dreamliner engines”
Ethiopian has also been subjected to unfavorable scrutiny, particularly in the case of faulty engines found in the 787 Boeing Dreamliner Aircraft, with the air carrier rebuffing suggestions that it was an overly concerning issue.
“When the Boeing 767 was newly introduced in 1984, it went through the same process and now the 787 Dreamliner is a completely new technology with 60 percent composite material, with dramatically reduced engine noise, less fuel consumption and highly digitized technology,” said Tewolde, adding that aircrafts and new technologies can in the initial stages have minor problems, as the oil leakage reported in this case. Ethiopian as a precautionary move has changed one of the engines on which the problem was detected, he explained.
“African Airline of the Year”
Ethiopian has also announced that it has been recognized for its commitment to service excellence, after winning two awards from African Travel Quarterly (ATQ) Magazine on Monday, October 22, 2012 at an event held in Lagos, Nigeria. The air carrier was given the “African Airline of the Year” award, while its renowned veteran Captain Desta Zeru, Vice-President of Flight Operations, received the “African Legend of Travel” award.
The awards were given during the 8th Akwaaba, African Travel Market Exhibition, held from October 22 to 24 and organized by ATQ, the first international travel magazine in West Africa. The African Travel Market exhibition is an annual event organized by ATQ magazine which specializes in the aviation, travel, and tourism sectors in Africa. “Ethiopian Airlines, in the past year, has made Africa proud and smaller. As Africa emerges as a united continent, Ethiopian has been driving this integration by opening new routes and linking neighbors. The B787 is the icing on the African Aviation cake. With its successful partnership with ASKY, Ethiopian is the leader in the West African Air transport market making the award inevitable,” said organizers at the event.