Ethiopian Airlines planes touched down in Addis Ababa and Nairobi this week – not carrying passengers, but masks and testing kits.
Those supplies are being used in the battle against coronavirus in Africa but for Ethiopian Airlines chief executive Tewolde Gebremariam, hauling cargo is also a strategy to keep the continent’s biggest carrier above ground.
“Right now we have refocused our energy time and resources on cargo operation as you can see, we have ten 777 freighters like this and two 737 freighters so we are using them all over the world they are working 24/7.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has been financially devastating for the global aviation industry.
The International Air Transport Authority, or IATA, says African airlines lost around $4.4 billion after thousands of flights were cancelled – and Ethiopian Airlines has not been immune.
“I mean like we have a reduction of like 30% in passenger traffic. In the last two months we lost a revenue of a 190 million USD.”
Most African carriers, Ethiopian Airlines excluded, were struggling to turn a profit even before the crisis.
“Unfortunately in the next couple of months of three months we will see a lot of airline casualties. So that is very, very sad.”
For Africa, international bookings plunged around 20% in March and April and ticket refunds jumped by 75% this year compared to 2019.
The IATA is now urging governments to give state aid to their airlines.