By Friday Nwosu
Ethiopian Airlines, Africa largest carrier which newly introduced the first African Airbus A350 XWB is seeking to exploit opportunities on the New York, US, West African route.
West Africa is an underserved market from New York and the US generally – forcing most passengers to fly via Europe.
According to a report in CAPA, the carrier is confident that the new route will succeed as it will provide a new faster and in many cases a more affordable option for passengers heading between New York and several West African countries.
There are currently only 33 weekly nonstop flights from the US and West Africa, including 14 frequencies from Delta Air Lines, seven from United Airlines, seven from South African Airways (SAA), three from Nigeria’s Arik Air and two from Cape Verde’s TACV.
Arik operates three weekly flights from Lagos to New York JFK and TACV operates two weekly flights from its Praia base to Providence in Rhode Island, a niche ethnic route catering to local point-to-point demand. SAA operates four weekly Accra-Washington Dulles and three weekly Dakar-Washington Dulles flights, all of which originate in Johannesburg. SAA is looking at a potential new fifth freedom route from Nigeria to New York, which could pose new competition for Ethiopian.
Delta operates daily Atlanta-Lagos services, four weekly flights from New York JFK to Accra, and three weekly flights from New York JFK to Dakar. United currently has a daily flight from Houston to Lagos but is dropping the service, its only African route, on 30-Jun-2016. This leaves a void in the US-West Africa market which will partially be filled with Ethiopian’s new service to Newark.
United provided approximately 3,000 weekly seats in the West African market while Ethiopian’s Newark service will generate 1,620 weekly seats, with approximately 1,000 weekly seats available for the US-West African market. Total capacity in the US-West Africa market has dropped significantly in recent years and will reach a new low point after United withdraws – Ethiopian will only partially offset the reduction from United.
Ethiopian CEO, Mr Tewolde GebreMariam said the airline initially aimed to serve New York JFK but was unable to secure slots at JFK. He said Ethiopian could later move the Togo-Newark flight to JFK or potentially launch JFK to supplement Newark. He added that JFK is generally the preferred, or more convenient, airport for New York’s West African community.