Ethiopian Airlines Group’s Road to Recovery and Expansion

CEO Mesfin Tasew of the Ethiopian Airlines Group confirmed that the company has fully returned to pre-pandemic operational levels. He further outlined plans to expand the airline’s fleet and network map, illustrating the robust ambition of the carrier.

“We’re currently operating around 140 aircraft, but this number continuously varies. By 2035, we forecast 271 aircraft in our operations. That means we need at least 130 additional aircraft,” Tasew revealed during a conversation with Aviation Daily at the IATA AGM in Istanbul.

Fleet Expansion and Aircraft Replacement

As the airline continues to operate older aircraft, the need for replacements and additional aircraft increases. Tasew expressed his intention to place the next round of aircraft orders by year-end. He indicated that the orders would comprise a mix of narrowbody and widebody aircraft.

Potential candidates for the lower end of aircraft size include the Embraer E2 series and the Airbus A220. The company is also evaluating a 100-seater aircraft. On the other hand, narrowbody contenders such as the Boeing 737 MAX and Airbus A320neo are under consideration. For the widebody side, the airline is contemplating the 777X and A350-1000.

Photo: Diego7864

Current Orderbook and New Aircraft

As of June 5, Ethiopian Airlines’ orderbook includes 29 aircraft: 17 737 MAXs, five 777Fs, one 787-9, and six Airbus A350-1000s. During the current financial year, which ends on June 30, the airline has received 12 new aircraft.

Impact of Global Supply Chain Issues

The airline is not immune to the global supply chain issues currently impacting the aviation industry. “The problems are with A350s and 787s. We have a critical shortage of components,” Tasew reported. Although it hasn’t been necessary to ground aircraft so far, the peak season in July and August could present problems as every aircraft is necessary.

Network Growth Plans

In the next couple of years, Ethiopian Airlines, a member of the Star Alliance, may expand its network to Australia via Singapore. The company is also planning to increase services to the Americas, specifically to Toronto and Montreal. In the U.S., the airline currently operates flights to New York JFK, Newark, Chicago O’Hare, Atlanta, and Washington Dulles.

In Europe, Madrid and Lisbon are on the radar for the airline. The company is also looking to increase its current domestic network of 20 airports to 27, as five new airports are being planned in the country.

Passenger Numbers and Revenue Growth

The airline forecasts slightly higher passenger numbers for the current fiscal year ending in June, with 13 million compared to 12.2 million in 2019. “Our revenue met our target,” Tasew confirmed. “It will be about 50% higher compared to pre-COVID levels, partly contributed by cargo. Cargo still has a big contribution to our overall revenue.”

Given these ambitious plans for Ethiopian Airlines, what do you foresee as the main challenges and opportunities for the company in the years to come?

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