By Paul Revel – 25 Feb 2014
Ethiopian Airlines is to increase its Heathrow-Addis Ababa flights to a daily service, from July 8 this year. The new Tuesday service will increase frequency from its current six flights a week.
The airline, a Star Alliance member, is also set to move to the new Heathrow Terminal 2 in September. The rebuilt terminal, also known as the Queen’s Terminal, will operateexclusively for Star Alliance members from June.
CEO Tewolde Gebremariam said the airline, which has operated to London from 1973, has grown seven-fold in the last seven years, and currently flies 5.6 million passengers annually.
Speaking at a recent Aviation Club event in London, Gebremariam outlined Ethiopian’s strategy of building a four-hub network in Africa. “Our main hub is in Addis, our second in Togo in west Africa, and a third in Malawi where we are starting a new airline – we have just started a new partnership with the Malawi government. The fourth hub, for the central African region, will be in the DRC [Democratic Republic of the Congo], with 8,000 employees.”
He said a 10-hour flight radius from Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa encompassed “5.8 billion people in a high-growth region. That catchment area is a huge market.”
Gebremariam said Africa’s natural resources are attracting foreign direct investment, particularly from China and India, contributing to a dynamic economy in Ethiopia – double digit GDP growth in the last decade and the third fasted-growing economy in the world.
The airline boss emphasized the importance of connectivity with the world’s emerging economies, pointing out that the combined GDP of the “E7” countries – China, India, Brazil, Russia, Indonesia, Mexico and Turkey – is poised to overtake that of the G7 (US, Japan, Germany, UK, France, Italy and Canada): he cited a forecast for 2050 of US$138.2 trillion GDP for the E7, compared to US$69.3 trillion for the G7 countries.
He said one of his airline’s greatest challenges was competition from the Gulf carriers. Of Europe’s long-successful hub-and-spoke airport operations, he said that “unfortunately and inadvertently, European governments and politicians are helping move the centre of gravity to the hubs in the Middle East, by making it very difficult for airlines to operate in Europe.”