By Victor Shalton
Ethiopian Predicts Higher Passenger and Cargo Capacity For 2022
Ethiopian Airlines — Africa’s largest carrier — is struggling with its passenger operations, but the airline could make a full recovery by the end of this year, according to the airline’s CEO Tewolde GebreMariam who spoke at a Dubai Expo event on Jan. 11.
As the airline emerges from the devastating Covid-19 downturn, the airline’s s chief acknowledged that he “wouldn’t say that we will fully recover,” this year, but the carrier’s capacity is likely to rise from 70 percent of pre-Covid today to “80%, 90% maybe 100%.”
The projection may be more optimistic than those of other airline chief executives, with most CEOs noting that passenger capacity is unlikely to reach pre-covid capacity until 2023.
However, according to GebreMarian, cargo operations has been instrumental during the covid crisis period with the split between cargo and passenger operations becoming somewhat of a ‘tale of two cities.’
Rising Cargo Numbers
Surging increase in air cargo business has steered Ethiopian through greater heights above of many peers in its recovery, with GebreMariam reiterating that the Addis Ababa-based carrier is “cash-positive and profitable,” having “not taken any bailout money”.
The carrier’s employees have received salary increases and bonuses, at a time when many carriers have focused on reducing their workforces.
“You see a clear demarcation between airlines that are well diversified into the cargo business and airlines which didn’t have a strong presence in the cargo business pre-Covid”, GebreMariam said.
2022 might bring “slightly lower” air freight demand than that seen in 2021, GebreMariam observes, “But still enough for airlines that have pivoted into the cargo business such as Ethiopian Airlines”.
According to GebreMariam, that is crucial when “the tourism part of travel is not yet recovering as much as expected”.
The Star Alliance cargo strategy, therefore, continues to involve the use of passenger jets for freight-only flying, GebreMariam states, including those temporarily converted into freighters.
Digitization of Air Freight
The airline — through its cargo division — recently launched an online cargo booking portal at cargobooking.ethiopianairlines.com.
“We are pleased to offer our customers convenience in their experience of air cargo booking. We are committed to starting walking the long walk of taking out paper from the entire air cargo process by digitalizing the logistics value chain. Taking out paper from logistics value chain is not only convenient and hassle-free service for customers but also it delivers more efficient operational excellence and achieves long term sustainability goals,” GebreMariam said.
Ethiopian Airlines Cargo customers can use the new online system and sign in for booking access to the carrier’s freight network conveniently using the mobile app — available for Android and IOS. On the Mobile App, customers can check flight schedules, submit inquiries, receive notifications when the shipment is ready, book charter flights and track shipments.
“Our online booking platform will be crucial in empowering direct cargo customers and forwarders with reliable access to our cargo capacity inventory. Besides, our cargo division has proved to the world that it is a genuine partner in times of dire need by delivering lifesaving PPE’s (Personal Protective Equipment) and hundreds of millions various vaccines to all major continents of the world,” he added, when describing how the new technology will be convenient and hassle-free for customers.
The operator has reconfigured around 25 passenger aircraft of various types into freighters during the pandemic, in addition to operating its 10 Boeing 777-200Fs and three 737-800SFS. Ethiopian Cargo has also extended its reach to more than 70 destinations globally, versus 10 pre-pandemic, the airline says.