By Friday Nwosu
Ethiopian Airlines, Africa’s largest carrier, is building up its West African operation, through its affiliate with ASKY airlines and new long haul services from Lome to New York and São Paulo.
ASKY took delivery of its first 737-800 in early Jun-2016, giving it a fleet of eight aircraft including three 737-700s and four Bombardier Dash 8 Q400s.
According to a report in CAPA, the airline plans to take delivery of a second 737-800 by the end of 2016, which will be used to replace one of its Dash 8 Q400s, driving a further increase in capacity. ASKY is also adding capacity to several of its 19 destinations with the acquisition of the 737-800s, which will be the largest aircraft in its fleet.
Ethiopian resumed services from Lome to São Paulo in May-2016 and plans to launch services from Lome to Newark in early Jul-2016. ASKY is playing a critical feeder role for both long haul routes and its expansion also enables it to increase its share of the intra-West Africa market.
ASKY pursues expansion with two 737-800s
ASKY commenced operations in 2010, with Ethiopian as a strategic partner. Ethiopian has a 40% stake in ASKY and all of ASKY’s aircraft are registered in Ethiopia. ASKY launched with 118-seat two-class 737-700s and added all four of its Q400s – which are in two-class 71-seat configuration – in late 2012 and 2013.
The Ethiopian CEO, Tewolde Gebrermariam, told CAPA on the sidelines of the 1-Jun-2016 IATA Annual General Meeting in Dublin that two 737-800s would be added to ASKY’s fleet by the end of 2016. The first 737-800, which was delivered in early-Jun-2016 in 164-seat two-class configuration, is being used for growth ahead of Ethiopian’s launch of services between Lome and Newark.
The second 737-800 will replace one of ASKY’s four Q400s, giving ASKY a fleet of five 737s (three -700s and two -800s) and three Q400s. The Q400 will be returned to Ethiopian.
The 737-800s represents significant expansion for ASKY as the capacity of its fleet increases by 40%, from 638 total seats to 895 total seats. ASKY is adding capacity to several of its existing destinations through a combination of additional frequencies and upgauging existing frequencies.
Expanded ASKY to feed Ethiopian’s new Lome-Newark service
ASKY has already upgauged Lome-Dakar from the 737-700 to the 737-800 and added frequencies on several routes, including Lome-Abidjan. The second 737-800 will generate further capacity increases as flights are upgauged from the Q400 to 737-700, and from the 737-700 to the 737-800.
Abidjan and Dakar are among the ASKY destinations that will connect with Ethiopian’s new thrice weekly Lome-New York service. Ethiopian is also selling one-stop connections from New York to Bamako, Bissau, Brazzaville, Conakry, Douala, Kinshasa, Lagos, Libreville, N’Djamena, Niamey, Ouagadougou and Yaoundé. ASKY has introduced a new schedule on several routes to facilitate connections to and from Newark.
Mr GebreMariam estimated that West Africa will account for 60% of passengers on the new Lome-Newark service, with East Africa accounting for the remaining 40%. As Togo-US is a very small market almost all of the West Africa passengers will connect beyond Lome, with Ghana and Nigeria expected to be particularly strong markets.
He said that Ethiopian expects strong point of sale results from both West Africa and the US, pointing out that there is a large West African community in the New York area.