Editor’s note: The economic growth and the rise of income levels in Africa has created a growing and strong middle class with global trade and investment opportunities. East Africa is currently the regional leader in terms of GDP growth, coupled with growth in population calls for increasing demand in air travel. Various international airlines such as Turkish Airlines, Ethiopian Airlines, Qatar Airways, Emirates and FlyDubai have recently opened new routes into Africa and have in essence realized the importance of opening access to destinations that are largely underserved and have great market potential. Ethiopian Airlines is East Africa’s biggest Airline with a goal to become the largest Airline in Africa, with $10 billion annual revenue and four hubs to cover continental Africa by 2025. WardheerNews is pleased to bring to its readers an interview we had with Mr. Esayas Woldemariam, the Managing Director of Ethiopian Airlines International Services. Mohamed Osman and Abdelkarim Hassan collaborated on conducting this interview for WardheerNews.
WardheerNews (WDN): Mr Esayas Woldemariam (Hailu), we are delighted to welcome you to WardheerNews.com, before we delve into the bulk of the interview, could you please share with us a brief background history about yourself?
Mr Esayas Woldemariam (Hailu): First, thank you WardheerNews for providing me the opportunity to share with Ethiopian Airlines services to your readers. I am the Managing Director of Ethiopian International Services. I head and direct the development and coordination of Sales, Services and Operation of all International Flights and field office Ethiopian Airlines Group activities and objectives, policies, procedures, plans and programs.
I joined Ethiopian Airlines in 1991 and have served the airline for 23 years in different Senior Management positions including Manager, Revenue Management and Central Reservations Control, Expert Flight Performance and Yield Analysis, Area Manager Greece & the Balkans, Country Manager, Nigeria, Director for Germany and Central Europe and Vice President, Ethiopian Cargo, Senior Vice President, Global Sales, Chief Commercial officer, and MD Ethiopian International Services the position I currently hold since October 01, 2013.
I have a Master’s Degree in Business Administration MBA, from The Open University in UK, and BSc. Degree in Mathematics from Addis Ababa University.
WDN: Could you share with us a brief history of Ethiopian Airlines (ET) and highlight its evolution in becoming the biggest Airline in Africa?
Mr. Hailu: Ethiopian Airlines, formerly Ethiopian Air Lines Inc. (EAL), was created by the decree of Emperor Haile Selassie I at the end of 1945 with a Pan-African vision of connecting the newly-independent countries of the continent. The airline’s first scheduled flight was to Cairo in April 8, 1946.
In 1960, a second leg was extended to Monrovia, Liberia, via Khartoum, Sudan; Lagos, Nigeria; and Accra, Ghana. This was considered a milestone in African aviation as it was the continent’s first east-west connection since the days of Imperial Airways. Before then, passengers would fly to different countries in Africa via hubs in Europe.
During the years of recession, austerity and political turmoil, Ethiopian maintained its corporate identity. It invested in its human resources and developed a strong bond of loyalty among its staff. We have the highest levels of professionalism and an enviable work ethic.
Ethiopian has over the years built a brand anchored on Pan-Africanism, and today our widespread presence in Africa and the whole world is a manifest testimony to this remarkable achievement. Pan-African values are embedded in our Vision, Mission and business operations to provide clear guidelines and inspiration to our staff, customers and all stakeholders. Our Pan-Africanism has helped us grow very fast to become an airline of choice for both international and regional air travelers. It has helped us build a huge presence in the global civil aviation industry with the “Pan-African Spirit” being our unmistakable identity.
Ethiopian continued asserting its presence in the aviation world by becoming a pioneering operator in the history of African aviation. Ethiopian embarked into the jet age as early as 1963 and became the first airline to order Boeing-767 in 1982 that was received in 1984. A few years later, Ethiopian received its first Boeing-737 in 1987. Recently, Ethiopian became the second airline – after Japan’s ANA airlines – to own and operate the Boeing-787 Dreamliner aircraft. We consistently grew to become a major transporter in the world with a current network of 84 international destinations, a fleet size of 77 aircraft and an unrivaled East-West route coverage of Africa.
A major catalyst to our success story is our exceptionally dedicated and uniquely committed employees and management. Ethiopian employees do not consider their association with the airline as a simple contract of employment for a monthly pay check; rather they consider themselves to be in a long-term mission of building a competitive global airline brand for the country.
We have quickly emerged as Africa’s leading airline. Perhaps most significant is our still- evolving role in setting up joint ventures throughout Africa. Ethiopian’s willingness to develop aviation across the continent is noteworthy, particularly given the fact that other major African carriers have been unsuccessful over the years with similar pursuits. We have made intra-African connectivity easier and more convenient with our multiple hubs thru our partnership with ASKY in West Africa and Malawian Airlines in Southern Africa.
Our new fights connecting Addis Ababa, Dublin and Los Angeles will be the first and only direct air route linking Africa with Ireland and the West Coat of the U.S., they will bring these two seemingly far away cities much closer to Africa and will facilitate mobility and connectivity for businesses and the large African Diaspora community living in the West Coast of the United States. We have also augmented our presence in the US market with a new codeshare agreement with United Airlines which will greatly help travelers from the United States get access to more destinations in Ethiopian’s extensive network.
As per our Vision 2025 we have further fleet and network expansion in 2015, enabling our flag carrier to widen the gap with other leading African carriers. Ethiopian has already become the largest airline in Africa based on fleet size. In 2014, IATA ranked Ethiopian as the largest airline in Africa in revenue and profit.
WDN: At the fall of the Derg government of Mengistu Haile Mariam in 1991, Ethiopian Airlines (ET) temporarily moved its aircrafts to Nairobi, Kenya. How did the aforementioned move disrupt and impact the various business lines of ET and how were you able to recover?
Mr. Hailu: Ethiopian temporarily relocated its planes to Nairobi as the fighting approached the capital. In spite of the disruption and chaos, and a downturn in the global aviation industry, and the elimination of tourism due to the war, Ethiopian managed to post a profit. Cargo operations, which supplied more than one-third of revenues, were keeping the airline in the black.
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