Managing Director of Ethiopian Airways International Services, Esayas Woldermariam Hailu recently met with aviation and tourism journalists and spoke extensively on the operations and success factors of the airline as well as air link within Africa destinations among others. OLUSHOLA RICKETTS was there and reports.
Ethiopian Airlines remains a leading airline in Africa with its operations, which first birthed in the 1960s, cutting across Africa and the globe. Over the years it has remained a strong force, posting impressive results, earning global accolades and contributing to the development of African destination and the globe with its extensive air connections. Coming this far and primed for future strides still, is according to the Managing Director of the airline, Mr. Esayas Woldermariam Hailu, something to celebrate and crow about. The fact that is a government owned airline, he says makes it even an interesting development but the huge strides of the airline, says the managing director has not come on a platter of gold but rather through hard work and focus on its mission.
Hailu noted that one of the success factors of the wave making airline, which was one of the first airlines in the world to acquire and fly the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, is the non-interference of the government in the operations of the airline, which is known as ‘the new spirit of Africa. According to him, this has greatly helped to focus, stablise and standardised the operations of the group, a factor, which he says led to the development of good management structure for the airline. “The secret is not in the ownership; it could be private or government. If the airline is squandered or mismanaged, it will be no more. So, it is a matter of diligent management. Our government do not interfere in the company’s business; the only time is their request at the end of the year to know our performance,” discloses Hailu. Also, he outlines hard-working workforce, diligent management, good customer service, welfare package and good incentives for the market as some of the factors that have aided the success of the airline. “We are dedicated and committed to our employees. We have wise leadership; flexible capacity and demand management. Other factors that have made us grow over the years are prudent cost management, charter business, right long term strategy, growth of African and Ethiopian economy as well as customer confidence,” he says. ‘‘Financing the airlines’ fleet expansion comes easy than expected, reveals Hailu even as he explains that the Ethiopian government being the airline’s shareholder gives them guarantee in addition to the ones offered by the aircraft manufacturing countries.
“For example, when we import from the US, Boeing, the American NXIM Bank participate in the financing because they want to encourage the export of their national products. They know our performance, they follow our track records and they know we are credit worthy. ‘‘Since we are 100 per cent government owned company, we don’t sell shares. But we completely finance our operations from year to year from the profit we make. We pay our principals and interests on time. So we are a selffinanced airline. We finance our fleet from our annual operational profit, from our revenue and our own cash flow,” he says. If there is one difficult aspect of aviation that the airline has made inroad, it is on the development of the Africa continent through interconnectivity, a development, which has greatly hampered the development of movement, trade, tourism and others within the continent. But the airline has continued to break new grounds in this area by extending its services to most parts of Africa thereby bridging the gap. While lamenting the lack of political will by the leaders of the continent to improve on interconnectivity within the continent, Hailu also condemns the high tax and heavy regulation of the aviation industry in Africa, a situation, which he says has greatly affected aviation, tourism and business among others. “It is highly regulated, highly taxed and highly restricted, but it is the most essential service that everybody wants to have. African governments have to liberalise the African skies, in accordance to Yamoussoukro Decision.
Right now many African countries have given flight rights to the Gulf carriers than their own African airlines. It needs to be corrected for Africa to thrive,” he advises. Overall, Hailu concludes that the airline has done well and would continue to strive to meets its aspirations and goals for the industry, the government and people of Ethiopia. The global acclaim of the airline, he says has put it in good position to compete with other global airlines. Just last year alone, the airline got about nine awards for its excellent performances and ahead of 2025 vision, the managing director, reveals that the airlines targets 10 billion dollar revenue against current 2 billion dollar; 1 billion dollars profit; 100 international and 26 domestic destinations as against 82 international currently; 140 aircraft to cancel out the present 66 aircraft; increase in passengers from six million to18 million; and increase in 200, 000 tons of cargo to 820, 000 and rise in employees to 17,000.