Ethiopian Airlines has secured an additional two weekly traffic rights to Canada, expanding its current allowance from five to seven.
The reciprocity embedded in air service agreements, governing market access, theoretically allows Canadian airlines the opportunity to operate up to seven flights weekly to Ethiopia, although such a scenario is not anticipated.
According to simpleflying.com, Among other changes, Royal Jordanian can fly seven weekly from Amman, up from three weekly. The changes follow the loosening of the strict Canada-UAE bilateral agreement earlier in 2023. This enabled Emirates to begin Dubai-Montreal, partner Air Canada Vancouver-Dubai, and Emirates and Etihad to increase Toronto flights.
Ethiopian serves Toronto
In November, Ethiopian’s Chief Commercial Officer, Lemma Yadecha Gudeta, told me he is keen to increase Toronto flights to daily. The new bilateral agreement enables this. However, when writing on December 20th, this has not yet been implemented, per its booking engine.
Toronto is presently served five times weekly (the maximum permitted under the old agreement) using the Airbus A350-900, but expect it to rise to daily soon.
Like most of the airline’s other North American services, Toronto flights leave Addis Ababa late at night and arrive back in the early morning. This is for one reason: to maximize two-way connectivity across Africa.
Due to Addis Ababa’s renowned very high elevation, which reduces aircraft performance with a decent payload, the Toronto service stops in Rome Fiumicino to refuel and change crew. It operated via Dublin until the end of October but switched back to Rome due to a better deal and more payload capability, improving commercial performance.
It is scheduled as follows, with all times local. As the Rome stop is just for tech reasons, it obviously does not have fifth freedom traffic rights:
Addis-Rome: ET552, 23:00-04:20+1 (6h 20m)
Rome-Toronto: ET552, 05:20-08:50 (9h 30m)
Toronto-Addis: ET553, 11:00-07:00+1 (13h)
Where do Toronto passengers go?
Analysis of booking data suggests that about half of Toronto passengers transited to other flights over Addis Ababa. The top 10 markets were Toronto to/from Lagos, Delhi, Nairobi, Entebbe, and Accra. Notice the amount of backtracking for some of those segments.
Showing the importance of Air Canada, around a third of passengers ‘bridged’ both Toronto and Addis, with Calgary-Toronto-Addis-Asmara number one. About 13% of traffic connected in Toronto but went no further than Addis, while the rest of the passengers were point-to-point.
What about Montreal?
Gudeta also informed me that he is keen to begin flying to Montreal. A four-weekly service is likely, probably with a fifth-freedom service via West Africa. It is used to this setup with JFK via Abidjan and Newark and some Washington Dulles flights operating via ASKY’s hub of Lomé.
Some reports suggest it may fly via Accra, which makes little sense given the point-to-point market from Montreal is tiny. Instead, Lomé is much more logical, as it would enable passengers to connect across Western and Central Africa. According to booking data, the mainly Francophone demand means the market had 130,000+ passengers in the past year.
This is all theoretical. While Ethiopian gained more Canadian traffic rights, this does not include fifth freedom service, so the carrier cannot operate like this. Despite being a fellow Star Alliance member, it is believed that the vested interests of a large Canadian airline, which funnels lots of passengers to Western and Central Africa via Europe, may help to scupper this idea, at least for now.
Ethiopian could still serve Montreal like Toronto by reducing Toronto’s frequency, but this makes no sense. The lobbying will continue.