By Friday Nwosu
The Ethiopian Airlines and ASKY partnership has been highly successful, with Ethiopian using ASKY to feed its Lome flights and some of its other West African services.
ASKY is now profitable, and Ethiopian in recent years has been by far the most profitable airline in Africa.
Ethiopian airlines currently has its own services to 16 of ASKY’s 19 destinations; Bangui, Bissau and Conakry are ASKY’s only exclusive destinations.
However, the Togolese carriers’ role in the 16 overlapping destinations is significant as it has enabled Ethiopian to provide greater frequency and more options for its passengers originating in East Africa and Asia.
According to a report on CAPA, Ethiopian’s investment in ASKY and its other African affiliate, Malawian, is key to the airline’s objective to continue growing its presence in Africa. Ethiopian already has the largest African network, with 47 regional international destinations – or 50, when ASKY’s three exclusive destinations are included – along with 17 domestic connections.
The African network has been critical in enabling Ethiopian’s rapid growth over the last several years, particularly in Asia. Ethiopian currently operates passenger services to 11 destinations in Asia, six of which have been launched since 2011. The Asian network, which is expected to grow to 15 destinations over the next year, relies heavily on connections beyond Ethiopia – including to West Africa.
Ethiopian airlines now need the Lome hub to support Newark and São Paulo, neither of which would likely be viable routes without the stop in Togo and significant feed from West Africa.
Ethiopian is keen to grow further in the Americas with Chicago and Houston the most likely next new destinations – but there is insufficient demand to support new nonstop services from Addis Ababa.
Los Angeles, which was launched in 2015, is only viable with a stop in Dublin in both directions. After experimenting with nonstop flights to São Paulo, Ethiopian has learned that the route is only viable with a stop in West Africa.
Ethiopian’s other two existing destinations in the Americas – Toronto and Washington Dulles – have the benefit of drawing from much larger Ethiopian communities and are likely the only markets able to support nonstop flights. (Ethiopian has a fuel stop in Dublin on flights to Toronto and Washington but purely for operational reasons, due to the high altitude of Addis Ababa, and operates the return sectors from Toronto and Washington nonstop.)
Ethiopian could route its future US routes via Lome or Dublin and is looking at both options. However, with Togo Ethiopian has the opportunity to carry passengers from several West African countries and meet its overall strategic goal of building up the group’s Lome hub while expanding its leading pan-African presence.