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Arriving in Addis Ababa

If there were a gold medal for airline operations in Africa then Ethiopian would be on the podium. The country that’s famous for producing some of the world’s greatest long-distance runners now also has an airline that is the pride of the nation.

Ethiopian is the largest airline in Africa and has ambitious plans for further development. It has one of the most modern fleets in the world and in just one month (July this year) it took delivery of the first Rolls-Royce Trent XWB-powered Airbus A350-900 to enter service in Africa, as well as its first Boeing 787 Dreamliner powered by Trent 1000s.

For Rolls-Royce this was a really significant month too as it marked the beginning of a long-desired relationship with the airline. A total of 14 A350-900s are on order and there will soon be six Boeing 787s with Rolls-Royce engines in service. In addition they have two 787-9s due to arrive in 2017 and a further two in 2018 all with Rolls-Royce engines.

According Ethiopian’s Chief Operating Officer Mesfin Tasew: “The contact with Rolls-Royce really started when we ordered the A350-900s and since then the relationship has grown. It increased substantially from last year when we decided to acquire the Boeing 787s with Trent 1000s.We have been working closely with Rolls-Royce people since then and so far it is going well, it is very smooth and we are very happy with the way we do business together.

“The trust is growing and that is important. That’s why we signed a TotalCare® agreement on the Trent 1000 engines and we are in discussion at the moment on TotalCare for the Trent XWBs too.

“From our point of view we want Rolls-Royce to partner with us and support our growth and do this on a trust and partnership basis. We want to continue to develop in-house capabilities and we believe Rolls-Royce can help with this.”

Today Ethiopian is flying a comprehensive network of short haul, medium and long haul routes. The existing Boeing 787s are employed on medium and long haul and so the new Rolls-Royce powered 787s will be additional support on these routes to Europe and the Middle East and on some African routes. The new A350-900s will primarily fly longer routes to Europe and Asia. At present they are less likely to go to the Americas but could do so depending on the traffic volume.

This year marks the 70th anniversary of Ethiopian and it is clear that the airline is looking to its future and not its past. The airline currently operates just under 80 aircraft but expects to have a fleet of 150 within the next decade. It is currently building the largest and most modern cargo terminal in Africa with a capacity to manage 1.2 million tons. Cargo is growing in importance and currently represents around 15-18% of annual revenues.

From its position in east Africa it sees tremendous opportunities, with Africans now travelling in increasingly large numbers to and from major countries such as India and China. Ethiopian is a member of the Star Alliance and currently operates to 93 destinations, connecting 51 African cities with the world. The airline would like to see its home base of Addis Ababa becoming a hub to connect South America-Africa-Asia, as a natural Southern globe route. That would mean investing in and expanding the airport and plans are underway for this too.