Home » Africa: Star Alliance Carrier Ethiopian Airlines To Add Two North American Destinations Annually Targeting Significant Network Growth In The U.S, Chief Commercial Officer Reveals

Africa: Star Alliance Carrier Ethiopian Airlines To Add Two North American Destinations Annually Targeting Significant Network Growth In The U.S, Chief Commercial Officer Reveals

by Atqnews
Bangladesh Ethiopian Rolls-Royce Airlines Brand Finance STEM School in Ethiopia Typhoon Dembi Dollo, POLAND

Ethiopian Airlines is expanding its North American footprint with a current roster of six passenger destinations, including Atlanta, Chicago O’Hare, Newark, New York JFK, Toronto, and Washington Dulles.

The airline’s Chief Commercial Officer has announced plans to broaden its reach further, eyeing additional destinations such as Denver, Minneapolis, Seattle, Houston, and Montreal.

According to simpleflying.com, Ethiopian Airlines has big plans for the US and Canada. The carrier’s Chief Commercial Officer, Lemma Yadecha Gudeta, told me that two new passenger destinations are expected to be added “per year over the next few years.” Subject to the numerous usual considerations, this seems bullish but exciting. He spoke to Simple Flying at the relaunch of its London Gatwick service, during which he also disclosed European plans.

READ: Aviation: African Carrier, Ethiopian Airlines makes a Historic Deal to Acquire 84 Aircraft at the Dubai Airshow

Which could be its new destinations?
While Guedta did not state all destinations likely to see the Star Alliance carrier, he was upfront about its North American network development. He stated the following places without hesitation but did not provide further details, including timeframes.

For context, I have used booking data to provide sub-Saharan African passenger traffic data for the year to September 2023, including each city’s top two destinations. An intriguing consideration is that Ethiopian is already among the largest operators in most of these five markets, with passengers transferring to its services en route. Could it backfill the lost traffic?

READ: Aviation: African Carrier, Ethiopian Airlines, Rolls-Royce inks a Memorandum of Understanding for a TotalCare maintenance agreement covering 22 Trent XWB engines

Denver: 59,000 roundtrip passengers (Johannesburg, Addis Ababa); plus Star Alliance connections

Minneapolis: ~108,000 (Nairobi, Addis Ababa); well-known for its large African population
Seattle: 92,000 (Nairobi, Addis Ababa)
Houston: 130,000 (Lagos, Nairobi); plus Star Alliance connections; previously served
Montreal: 174,000 (Dakar, Abidjan), perhaps suggesting it would operate via Lomé; it falls to around 130,000 when more geographically suitable markets are considered for Ethiopian.

Guedta also made it clear that he hopes frequencies can be increased in particular existing markets. He specifically mentioned Toronto served five weekly using the Airbus A350-900 (see above).

Houston was previously served
OAG shows that Ethiopian flew to the Texas city and Star Alliance hub between December 2019 and March 2020. Evidently, the route was cut due to COVID.

It routed Addis-Lomé-Houston and vice-versa, enabling passengers to reach cities in Western and Central Africa much more quickly, especially Lagos, with partner ASKY. Indeed, booking data shows that Ethiopian carried far more passengers to/from Lagos than anywhere else.

Given that Guedta stated Houston is expected to return, the market must have performed adequately in its very early days relative to expectations and targets. This is despite passenger volume and loads being badly impacted by the pandemic.

Atlanta started in 2023
Ethiopian launched Addis-Atlanta in May 2023 despite having no codeshare agreement with Delta. Guedta said, “We are working very hard to gain codeshares.”

Perhaps expectedly, he said the four-weekly service is “doing well without it [codeshares].” However, if true, this would suggest there is less need for codeshares. Indeed, a source outside the airline tells me that Atlanta is not doing well and may be cut within the next year if it does not improve.

US DOT T-100 and booking data show that it transported about 26,000 Atlanta passengers between May and September 2023, with point-to-point traffic being a strong proportion of the total.

While P2P traffic is vital, especially given higher fares and yields, a good amount of transfer traffic is needed to fill long-haul flights. It is still early days, and long-haul markets can take a while to develop, but Atlanta only achieved a ~65% SLF in its first five months. It would be interesting to see how its business class cabin, so vital for long-haul performance, performed.

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