Ethiopian Airlines is proving to be unstoppable in its plans to take over Africa’s skies.
This month, the company announced new aircraft purchases valued at around $332 million to help solidify its domestic and regional reach. The order of the Q400 turboprops will expand its Bombardier fleet to 39 and will help reach underserved markets in Africa, especially those with low traffic density routes and small or challenging airfields.
The state-owned carrier currently operates 96 passenger aircraft and freighters and has more than 60 fleets on order. That essentially makes it Africa’s largest airline, flying to over 20 in-country locations, 58 destinations in Africa, and more than 100 cities in five continents globally. The recent aircraft deals also show the carrier had surpassed its own Vision 2025 plans, which stipulated that it operate 100 planes by 2025—forcing it to revise its objectives to “150 or more” planes in the next seven years, according to CEO Tewolde Gebremariam.
As intra-African travel improves and becomes more affordable, Ethiopian aims to become the pan-African passenger and cargo network that connects the continent. It has done so partly through strategic investments and partnerships and reviving defunct or struggling airlines like Zambia Airways. The company also manages hubs in countries including Malawi and Togo to spread its footprint and is currently looking to establish more central locations in Mozambique, Chad, and Equatorial Guinea.
The carrier is aggressively expanding its global network, introducing 10 new destinations in just six months in 2018. These include flights to Kisangani in DR Congo, Nosy Be in Madagascar, and Geneva, Switzerland. In March, it dispatched an all-female crew on its maiden flight to the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires.
These efforts have put Ethiopian Airlines ahead of other competitors like Kenya Airways and South African Airways, who have both struggled financially and have been bedeviled by strikes and unpaid worker salaries.