Ethiopian Airlines becomes third African carrier after Egyptair and South African Airways to join Star Alliance

Lufthansa, Star Alliance and Ethiopian Airlines CEOs mark Ethiopian Airlines entry into Star Alliance by cutting a celebratory cake.

Yesterday, it was time to cut the cake for Ethiopian Airlines’ entry into Star Alliance. At the centre were Christoph Franz, CEO Lufthansa; Jaan Albrecht, CEO Star Alliance (soon to be CEO Austrian Airlines and replaced at Star Alliance by Mark Schwab from United); and Tewolde Gebremariam, CEO Ethiopian Airlines. Ethiopian Airlines already serves a number of Star Alliance hubs and is increasingly tapping into the growing market between China and Africa.

This week, Ethiopian Airlines celebrated a major milestone in its history when it officially joined Star Alliance, the 28th airline in total to do so, and third in Africa after South African Airways and Egyptair. The airline has grown rapidly in recent years, more than doubling passenger numbers in the last six years, and currently operates a fleet of 42 passenger aircraft. These comprise five 777-200LRs, 11 767-300ERs, seven 757-200s, five 737-700s, six 737-800s, and eight Q400s. The carrier has outstanding orders for a further nine 737-800s, 10 787-8s (the first of which is due next year) and 12 A350-900s.

Ethiopian Airlines 2003-04 to 2009-10 Annual passengers (millions)

Source: Ethiopian Airlines' Annual Report

78 destinations currently served worldwide including Washington

According to OAG data for this week, the airline’s route network covers 16 airports in Ethiopia and a further 62 destinations across the globe, including one in North America (Washington Dulles), and seven in Europe (Brussels, Frankfurt, London Heathrow, Milan Malpensa, Paris, Rome Fiumicino, and Stockholm Arlanda). Washington, Brussels, Frankfurt and Stockholm are major bases for fellow Star Alliance members United, Brussels Airlines, Lufthansa and SAS respectively. In Asia, Ethiopian serves Bangkok, Beijing, Delhi, Guangzhou and Mumbai with non-stop services, while also serving Hong Kong and Hangzhou with one-stop services.

During this year, Ethiopian has launched new routes from Addis Ababa to Malakal (in South Sudan), Hangzhou (China) and Milan Malpensa (Italy), as well as adding new regional services from Bahir Dar and Mek’ele in Ethiopia to Khartoum in Sudan.

Chinese routes lead way in terms of ASKs

Analysis of the airline’s network by ASKs (Available Seat Kilometres), which takes into account weekly frequency, distance and aircraft size, reveals that two of the top three routes (which are operated non-stop in both directions with the same frequency) are to destinations in China; Guangzhou and Beijing.

Ethiopian Airlines top 13 routes by ASKs Weekly one-way ASKs (millions)

Source: OAG Max Online data for w/c 5 December 2011

However, it should be noted that the six times weekly Washington Dulles – Addis Ababa sector generates 20.9 million ASKs per week, but the outbound flight between Addis Ababa and Washington operates via Rome. Similarly, the airline’s 15 weekly flights between Addis Ababa and Rome generate 15.2 million ASKs per week but only seven of these return directly to Ethiopia. Six of the flights head over the Atlantic to Washington, while the remaining two head off for London Heathrow from where they head straight back to Addis Ababa. Such scheduling quirks help explain why London Heathrow, Rome and Washington do not appear in the above graph.

What they said

“Today we have taken a large step forward in completing our Africa strategy,” said Jaan Albrecht, outgoing CEO of Star Alliance. “With Ethiopian Airlines now part of the Star Alliance network, we offer our customers the widest choice of flights connecting to, from and within Africa. Moreover, Ethiopian Airlines will bring the Star Alliance customer benefits to more markets across Africa, a region of the world in which air travel is enjoying steady growth rates.”

“It is another historical milestone for Ethiopian to join this most prestigious and longest serving Alliance in the world,” said Tewolde Gebremariam, CEO Ethiopian Airlines. “This day will remain colourfully marked in our history book. It is in line with our efforts to lay a strong foundation for the airline to achieve its vision 2025 objectives.”


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