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The national flag carrier Ethiopian Airlines on Thursday August 29 announced an all-time high profit it partly credits for the Boeing787 planes.
Ethiopian Airlines chief executive officer Tewolde Gebremariam disclosed that his company has pocketed a record net profit of 2.03 billion birr.
The company’s profit was driven by operating profit surge which was nearly tripled to reach 2.7 billion birr between July 2012 and June 2013. The previous period of 2011/12 operating profit was just a billion birr.
Citing unaudited company accounts Tewolde said that the company’s net profit of 2 billion was “historic”, an increase of 178 percent from the previous period.
Flanked by senior managers at a press conference at the Hilton Addis, Tewolde said the performance is a result of “exceptionally dedicated employees”.
14 new planes including four Boeing 787s and nine new destinations Ethiopian has added during the 12 months were responsible for the company’s successful effort to boost revenues, according to the CEO who briefed local and international press in an hour long presentation.
The new routes said to be profitable and the new planes that were phased in have helped Ethiopian revenues expand by 14 percent to 38.5 billion birr during the period.
“We opened nine new routes during the year which is a record for us. The 14 new planes means we were taking delivery of more than one new airplane every month… which is a remarkable by any standard,” the CEO told reporters.
The CEO added that Ethiopian would have been even more profitable, if it had not been for incidents involving the Boeing 787 Dreamliners.
The company’s five Dreamliners halt operations for three and half months after the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration grounded the aircraft following incidents with smoldering batteries involving on two 787s operated by other airlines.
Again in early July, one of Ethiopian’s 787 planes was damaged while parked at London Heathrow airport.
The plane had been parked for about 9 hours when a worker in the control tower saw smoke coming out, and activated a crash alarm, according to British air safety officials. They have subsequently recommended that emergency transmitters on Boeing 787s should be disabled after finding that one of the squat orange boxes was the only thing with enough power to start a fire in the scorched tail section of a the parked 787.
Ethiopian is seeking compensation from Boeing for the period that these planes were not in service and the CEO says negotiations are currently ongoing.
“Definitely the incidents and the grounding have some impact. But we were very fortunate that the grounding of the planes was coincidentally in what we call slag season…it’s a slow demand season. So were able to minimize the level of the impact,” said Tewolde.
He insisted the Dreamliners are “the future of the aviation” and his company is sticking with plans to buy five more of the Dreamliners and lease three others. Ethiopian is expecting a delivery of three more Dreamliners by next year.
“Whenever we introduce the aircraft in any route, the load factor immediately increases which means our customers like the plane, they are enjoying its features,” Tewolde said.
“The incidents are part of a natural teething period which is not unusual for a technologically game- changing aircraft such as the Dreamliner,” he added.
Touching some of the major investments the company is making, the CEO said that the delayed project for a construction of a four star hotel is soon to start by a Chinese company which will also be responsible for financing and managing the upcoming hotel.
During the fiscal year the company brought its global call center from New Delhi, India to its headquarters in Addis Ababa. As a fallback when Ethiopian Telecommunication service is interrupted, Ethiopian can now rely on its VSAT technology for nonstop internet connections.
With some 1,330 weekly flights, Ethiopian flies to 76 international and 17 domestic destinations.
Kirubel Tadesse is Associated Press writer based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.