Sam Chui had a interview with Ethiopian Airlines Group CEO Tewolde GebreMariam
In early December, Ethiopian will start a new carrier in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), with a fleet of 10 aircraft. The carrier will be named Air Congo.
He noted that the DRC presented a significant market opportunity, as the country boasts the third-largest population in Africa with 100 million inhabitants. Elsewhere, Ethiopian is also involved in the launch of a new airline in Zambia which is set to launch on 1st December. “We have the AOC, the aircraft—51% will be held by the government and 49% by us,” the CEO said.
Describing Ethiopian Airlines’ role, GebreMariam said his carrier is able to bring in all the necessary support to get a new airline off the ground; this includes aircraft, pilots, technicians and leadership.
“The driver for such a group of airlines is not the return on investment. It is to support our hub Addis Ababa (ADD),” he said. “We want to expand inter-African routes further, because the connectivity [within the continent] is still not well. Ethiopian Airline is like the Lufthansa Group of Africa. Lufthansa has airlines like SWISS, Austrian etc.”
When asked about route planning, GebreMariam said a new service from Abidjan in the Ivory Coast to Washington Dulles would be coming soon. He also namechecked Houston, Amsterdam and Amman as future destinations , adding that there are talks ongoing with the Canadians to start Montreal flights via Dublin.
“Ethiopian Airlines is profitable, we are taking aircraft orders, paying all our loans with interest and lessors and we like to continue this way,” GebreMariam said.