Africa: Beef up security at airports’ baggage handling areas — Ethiopian Airlines MD

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THE Managing Director, Ethiopian Airlines (ET) International Services, Mr. Esayas Wolde Mariam Hailu, has called on the Nigerian authorities to increase security in baggage handling areas of the country’s international airports to reduce the incidence of unscrupulous individuals planting illicit drugs on the luggage of unsuspecting passengers.

His words: “We are always very serious about the security of our operations and customers and as to this specific case, we have discussed with all the authorities on how the process of baggage screening should be done in a way that insures safety is at the peak. We, together with other airlines like MS, ground handling company and the security company raised the need for scanning machines, sniffing dogs at the airport which should be arranged by the authorities.

“We have also placed strict control on the ground handling company and the security company as well. In short, below are the check lists we are using: sensitizing all handling staff to strictly follow the standard passenger check-in procedure, interview all passengers in regards to their baggage, who packed it and details at point of check-in; to make sure passenger by him or herself has to appear for check-in of baggage; the security company to make sure all bags are searched; proper supervision and control is in place at baggage area; to tighten the security, check, additional security check at transit (ADD).”

Mariam Hailu, commenting on the recent B737 Max-800 accident involving ET’s plane flying to Nairobi and the impact of the withdrawing of the aircraft brand from the company’s flight, he said: “Fortunately, the accident did not have much negative impact on our fleet utilization and our load factor mainly due to two reasons. The first one is the continued trust and confidence among the travelling public on our safety standard.

“The second reason is that March to May was a slack season in our operation, so we could manage with the available fleet in our possession. As we have more than 110 aircraft in operation currently, so we review our fleet plan and swap capacity to optimize aircraft utilization. June to September is a peak season in our operation, so we are considering all options to mitigate aircraft shortage we may face during this period.”

On the plan of the airline for Nigerian market, the ET boss said: “The operation in Nigeria will continue with the maximum effort to give a five-star service with our most modern aircraft. We plan to grow more in Nigeria in terms of frequency and operation wise. We also plan to do more on corporate social responsibility in Nigeria.” Mariam Hailu took time to explain the secret and business model behind the huge success of the airline as the biggest in terms of flight seize and the best in Africa.

He said: “We attribute our success to a range of factors, including: meticulously chosen business model and robust execution strategy; self-sufficiency in training aviation personnel who embody the values and spirit of Ethiopian Airlines; utilization of latest technology – Ethiopian is the frontrunners in embracing latest industry technology in Africa; management autonomy – despite state ownership, Ethiopian Airlines is managed by seasoned aviation professionals without meddling by the government in its day-to-day operations; unique and strategically located hub – in the middle of the East-West major trade lane.”

He said the airline has had huge input in the GDP of Ethiopia and the overall economy of the country.

He said:“As one of the most thriving state-owned enterprises, Ethiopian Airlines has been contributing to Ethiopia’s economy in terms of foreign currency generation. The airline plays a catalyzing role in the development of Ethiopia’s tourism sector.

“Through its freight services, Ethiopian Airlines facilitates import-export trade. Today, Ethiopia is second in Africa in horticulture export thanks to the connectivity the airline created.”

On Nigeria’s quest for a national carrier, he said the airline was willing to provide support and expertise for the successful establishment of a national carrier and that the airline was making progress in helping the Ghanaian government to establish its national carrier.

He said: “The project is in good progress and both parties are working closely in order to realize it as soon as possible.”

Being one of the airline’s major market in Africa, Mariam Hailu said: “ET has been consistent with the country from close to 60 years (since 1960). Ethiopian Airlines has been serving the Nigerian public since independence and has never stopped its operation.

We always give the best to our Nigerian travellers by deploying the most modern, newest aircraft from our fleet collection; availing best and short connections to more than 120 destinations; availing attractive promotional fares and packages (for tourism travellers) to all our destinations; allowing e-visa and on arrival visa facility; having LFW second hub we always make sure that Asky’s airlines schedules meet the demands and requirements of our Nigerian travellers. For instance, Asky is starting a new direct flight to Johannesburg for which additional flight is mounted from Lagos to give best connection.

“Ethiopian has also been carrying out different initiatives to discharge its corporate social responsibilities which include: tree planting initiatives – under its fly greener initiative Ethiopian has been planting a tree per each passenger it carries, in cooperation with partners; granting free air ticket to people in need of medical assistance overseas; sponsorships of different initiatives which benefit societies such as sports competitions, and many others.”

Mariam Hailu gave his opinions on how to grow aviation in the African continent. He said: “We believe that Africa needs to liberalize its sky if the full potential of African carriers are to be unleashed. Open sky policy is in the best interests of African airlines as it boosts their efficiency by reducing the high operational costs such as high airfares and airport charges. Liberalized airspace will help strengthen collaboration among the carriers towards claiming the market share they deserve.

“Ethiopian Airlines has been advocating for the implementation of the Single African Air Transportation Market (SAATM) per the Yamoussoukro Decision. So far, a number of African countries have signed SAATM which, once implemented, will drive down airfares by allowing carriers of signatory countries to freely access each other’s airports.”

by Okorie UGURU

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