Ethiopian Airlines has continued to dominate the African sky, and has now penetrated the North America market. Today, Kenya Airways has only one destination to North America – the Nairobi to New York flight.
But Ethiopian Airlines now has multiple flights to both North America and South America. One Kenyan living in Canada known as Al Kandie took a look at how Ethiopian Airlines is asserting itself on the international market. Here’s his take:
Every airline has its “home airport” where you will find more of that airline’s planes either parked, landing, or taking off.
That country’s “national carrier” or flagship airline prides itself in a particular airport being its “home ground” and as a citizen or resident of that city, after landing, you can comfortably say you’ve arrived home even though you may still have a connecting flight or will still need to use road or rail transportation to reach your “real” home.
As a Kenyan, when I land at Jomo Kenyatta International airport (JKIA), I say I’ve landed at home even though my real home – Kapkoi, EMC at that point, is still at least 6 hours away by road.
At JKIA, everything is familiar but the greatest sign of that familiarity is the sight of Kenya Airways (KQ) planes. You won’t see quite as many KQ planes on the tarmac upon landing but you’re assured of seeing at least two.
I’m sure a British national feels just as much as I do when they touch down at Heathrow airport to see many BA airplanes. Same way a Canadian living in Calgary, Alberta lands and sees the many WestJet planes at their home airport.
Likewise, when you touch down at Pearson Airport in Toronto, you’ll know you’re in Air Canada territory because the majority of airplanes are Air Canada ones.
In the airports I’ve been to, I haven’t seen as many of that country’s airplanes as those ‘Ethiopian’ airplanes I’ve seen at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
In my opinion, it’s the most unique airport I’ve been to in terms of how many ‘Ethiopian’ airplanes there are at a given time.
I always count as many as 40 or 50 on the tarmac and I’m just amazed by the numbers. It for sure feels like you’re in Ethiopia just by seeing all their planes.
At all the times I’ve flown through Ethiopia, the most “outside” airplanes I’ve seen are maybe two or three. The airport is clearly dominated by Ethiopia’s own flagship carrier!
The ‘Ethiopian Airlines’ isn’t the leading airline in Africa by accident. They’ve worked to be at the top of the continent’s airline industry over the years based on the information I saw onboard one of their planes I flew recently.
As of November 2021, they had a total operating fleet of 130 aircraft and 38 others on order! That’s 168 planes that serve its long range and medium range passenger services, regional and domestic passenger services, and cargo and non-scheduled services.
Airbus A350s and Boeing B7 series make the majority of their long and medium range passenger services. They use 30 Canadian-made Bombardier aircraft for their regional and domestic passenger services and 12 Boeing B777 and B737s for their cargo planes.
Kenya Airways has a total of 36 airplanes. That’s just over quarter of what ‘Ethiopian’ has. It’s no wonder that while Kenya flies to only one direct destination in North America (New York), Ethiopian flies to Chicago, Miami, Newark, New York, and Washington in the USA. They also fly to Toronto, Canada, Mexico city, Mexico, and several South American cities as well.
Ethiopian Cargo and Logistics services is apparently the largest cargo operator in Africa serving 58 destinations in Africa, the Gulf, Middle East, Asia, Europe, and North Americas. I was surprised to learn that Eldoret International Airport is also a cargo destination of theirs!
Air Canada, Canada’s biggest airline has 186 planes, just about 20 more than ‘Ethiopian’ although it has been operating for about 10 years more than Ethiopian and is of course a first world country.
WestJet, Canada’s second largest airline which serves 109 destinations in 24 countries according to their website has just 105 aircraft, 25 less than Ethiopian!
In comparison, the world’s largest airline – American Airlines has a whooping 916 airplanes mainly Airbus and Boeing. With a population of over 330 million and being the world’s largest economy, it makes sense that the largest airline in the world is in USA.
Also, with no fast trains like those in Japan and China, moving people across the world’s fourth largest country by land mass requirements mass transportation means like airplanes. American Airlines also operates in probably all continents with its hub being Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas.
Ethiopia’s economy obviously isn’t the biggest in Africa. At number 8, its airline industry towers that of Nigeria, South Africa, Algeria, Morocco, Angola, and Kenya.
It goes to show that a country doesn’t have to be rich to run a successful airline business. Nigeria may be the richest country in Africa but it doesn’t have a national carrier after Nigeria Airways collapsed due to corruption and poor management.
Nigeria Air, the proposed new carrier which was to start operations in 2018 was suspended two months after the licence was issued due to internal wrangles…
Many Nigerians flying to North America have to first fly south east to Ethiopia to catch the Ethiopian and it makes sense because without a national carrier, they’ve no choice but to make what appears as a “backward” trip to East Africa.
I hope Ethiopia’s own political wrangles won’t bring down their otherwise unstoppable airline industry. I also Iike their services especially the food on their flights.