Bengaluru or Chennai next destination on the cards for Ethiopian Airlines coming winter
Akansha Pandey | New Delhi
Ethiopia’s flag carrier – Ethiopian Airlines is currently operating twice daily from Delhi (on Boeing 767) and Mumbai (on Airbus 350) to Ethiopia’s capital city – Addis Ababa. By the winter season, the carrier is contemplating on connecting a new Indian destination either Bengaluru or Chennai with the Ethiopian capital.
“The western part of Africa is dominated by Tamilians and both Indian destinations on our mind have potential demand coming in from business and VFR travellers to Africa. Initially Ethiopian will offer three or four weekly flights from its third destination in India to Addis Ababa. Gradually, the frequency will be increased to daily. Traffic wise Chennai has slight better figures but operations wise, Bengaluru is more attractive being a private airport. We are evaluating all perspectives for the launch,” confirmed Tadesse Tilahun, Regional Director-Indian Sub Continent, Ethiopian Airlines.
Besides, the Delhi route will be upgraded to Boeing 787 Dreamliner by the next season (subject to delivery). Both Delhi and Mumbai routes are enjoying 80% load factor on an average with passenger ranging from business, leisure, VFR and labour.
This year the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has also approved for seven additional frequencies out of the Indian market. Hence, the carrier is also looking at expanding codeshare partnerships with Air India in India and Africa.
In July, the carrier will be starting off new flights to Geneva (Switzerland) and Chicago (Illinois) and by November, Istanbul (Turkey) and Moscow (Russia) are slated for the launch.
The Indian market is a very strategic market for Ethiopia in terms of both point to point and network traffic. Indians especially vegetarians are very particular about their meals. Thus, on a rotation basis every three months, the airline has been taking flight chefs from India to the airline’s catering unit in Addis Ababa. They have been training Ethiopian’s staff in preparing the authentic Indian cuisine in order to woo the discerning Indian traveller.
On the education and networking front, Ethiopian Airlines is planning to organise a roadshow either in Bengaluru or Chennai, along with Delhi, Pune and Ahmedabad sometime after July.
In India, the airline’s majority sales of 90% (approximately) are coming from online channels and 10% (approximately) from offline. Online sales are dominated by consolidators such as Riya Travels and Akbar Travels.
Tilahun added that they also give sales targets to agents and whoever achieves are eligible for Performance Linked Bonus (PLB) ranging from 5-7%. In the last fiscal, over 25 agents qualified for PLB.
Commenting on the challenges of operating out of India, he lamented, “The Aviation Turbine Fuel (ATF) and operational costs are very high in India as compared to other Asian countries. The landing and parking charges at Delhi and Mumbai airports are also exorbitant. Moreover, to ensure healthy load factor and overcome competition, Ethiopian Airlines has also revised its fares competitively.”
Currently, Ethiopian Airlines is the largest, fastest growing and most profitable African airline. Biggest in fleet size, number of destinations, revenue and net profit, as on date it is the only airline flying to 56 destinations in Africa, majorly South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria. Only four to five African countries aren’t covered by Ethiopian. They lie in the northern region of the continent and don’t see much of traffic.
On June 5, 2018, the carrier took delivery of its 100th aircraft, a Boeing 787-900 becoming the first African airline to operate 100 aircraft fleet in the history of the continent. A strategic move on the lines of Vision 2025 strategic roadmap, Ethiopian now operates one of the youngest and most modern 100 aircraft, with an average age of less than five years.