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    Saturday, June 29, 2024

    Nigerian Govt Has Lost Interest in Partnering with Foreign Airline - Ethiopian Airlines Group CEO Mesfin Tasew

    Ethiopian Airlines’ ongoing talks to establish a joint venture (JV) airline in Nigeria have come to an end.

    However, the airline is continuing to develop its multi-hub strategy in Africa.

    “The Nigerian government has lost interest in partnering with a foreign airline,” Ethiopian Airlines Group CEO Mesfin Tasew said recently in Dubai. The plan for the proposed airline, to be known as Nigeria Air, was for Nigerian investors to take a 46% stake, with the government holding 5%.

    However, Tasew said this setback will not stop the Star Alliance member from developing JVs to establish sister airlines in Africa where Ethiopian Airlines has an equity stake.

    “We have been approached by several airlines in Africa for support, and we are evaluating them,” Tasew said. Countries include the Democratic Republic of Congo as well as Equatorial Guinea.

    Meanwhile, Togo-based ASKY, in which Ethiopian holds a 40% share, and Malawi Airlines, which was Ethiopian’s first JV, continue to do well. Zambia Airways—in which Ethiopian Airlines holds a 45% share—is also continuing to develop.

    Closer to home, at its hub in Addis Ababa Bole International Airport, Tasew said Ethiopian Airlines is investing in expanding the airport’s international terminal, as well as aircraft parking and other infrastructure. The expansion, however, is now reaching the limit of available airport space. “We have a plan to build a new airport, 40 km [25 mi.] south of Addis. A consultancy, who will design the airport and supervise the construction work, has been selected,” Tasew said. The location of the new airport has been identified.

    “We are hiring and training our aviation professionals including pilots and technicians to support the continued growth of the airline,” Tasew said. “We see opportunities, and we are on track with our growth plan Vision 2035.”

    Besides a shortage of aircraft, spare parts and constrained capacity, traffic right restrictions are also an issue for the airline, not only within Africa but in other countries, including Europe.

    “We want to fly to Munich as well as to Amsterdam, but traffic rights and available slots are an issue,” Ethiopian Airlines Regional Manager in Austria and Eastern Europe Saba Kassaye said.

    In June, the carrier added services to Freetown, Sierra Leone, and Maun, Botswana, as well as a route to Warsaw. “The preparation work to launch Warsaw and to set up everything necessary took almost one year,” Kassaye said regarding the route development.

    Vienna, which launched 10 years ago in Ethiopian’s network, became the connector to Eastern Europe. The logical step now would be to operate double daily services from Addis to Vienna during peak season in the summer and winter. “This could be a reality in maybe two years,” Kassaye said.

    Starting in October, the current aircraft on the Addis Ababa-Vienna route will be upgraded from a Boeing 777-200LR and 787-9 to an Airbus A350-900. The aircraft continues from Vienna to Copenhagen four times, as well as to Warsaw three times a week.

    Ethiopian Airlines—Africa’s largest carrier—carried 13.9 million passengers in 2023. The airline expects to carry 18 million passengers in 2024.

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