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Ethiopian Airlines flies high on China demand

By ZHU WENQIAN | China Daily | Updated: 2024-07-10 09:39
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Ethiopian Airlines, the largest carrier in Africa, said it has seen rapid growth in demand from Chinese travelers to key African cities, and the airline is confident of its growth potential in China.

The Ethiopian national flag carrier said that flights from major Chinese cities to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia's capital, have been nearly fully booked this summer, fueled by growing demand of Chinese families taking safari vacations in Africa.

Currently, Ethiopian Airlines operates direct flights connecting Addis Ababa with Beijing, Shanghai, and Chengdu, Sichuan province, as well as twice-daily flights connecting Addis Ababa with Guangzhou, Guangdong province, as China-African trade has been booming between the two cities. It plans to put into use the latest Airbus A350 widebody aircraft in operating those intercontinental routes.

Aman Wole Gurmu

"Ethiopian Airlines has been continuously evaluating our route network, including connections between Chinese cities and Addis Ababa. The decision to launch new flights or increase frequencies is typically based on market demand and operational considerations," said Aman Wole Gurmu, country director of China for Ethiopian Airlines.

"Ethiopian Airlines has shown confidence in its growth potential in China, and the growth is expected to mainly come from increasing passenger traffic between China and Africa, as well as strategic partnerships and collaborations," Gurmu said.

He added that the relationship between the Chinese and Ethiopian governments is stable, and demand for business and diplomatic travel has been constantly increasing. The airline has seen a growing number of passengers, including corporate customers, diplomats and tourists.

In the first half, more than 330,000 passengers have traveled on flights of Ethiopian Airlines between the Chinese mainland and other international cities.

Besides Ethiopia, Chinese travelers have shown robust travel demand to African countries such as South Africa, Kenya, Namibia and Zimbabwe, boosting demand for the carrier's services, which operates flights to more than 60 destinations in Africa. With simplified entry procedures such as visa-on-arrival policies for multiple African countries, higher travel demand is expected from Chinese consumers.

So far, the number of international tourists traveling to Africa has recovered to 96 percent of pre-pandemic levels, and the number of passengers it transported is approaching the number seen before COVID-19.

For the passenger transportation market, in addition to its strongest African routes, the airline said its South American routes are also attracting attention.

"More guests traveling to South America take our flights to Brazil and Argentina, as transferring in Addis Ababa has advantages in transfer time and flight distances. The number of passengers who flew from Shanghai to South America and transferred in Addis Ababa accounted for more than 20 percent of Shanghai passengers flying to South America," Gurmu said.

"There is no doubt that every year we will invest more in digital marketing programs in China such as daily promotions through social media, and more strategic plans are expected to better promote our brand awareness in the Chinese market," he added.

Meanwhile, Ethiopian Airlines has accelerated the layout of its cargo network in China since the beginning of this year. It newly launched cargo routes from Ezhou, Hubei province, to Addis Ababa, and from Addis Ababa to Liege, Belgium and then to Changsha, Hunan province.

From January to June, the amount of cargo transported by Ethiopian Airlines has exceeded 60,000 metric tons, while the total cargo volume transported in the whole year of 2019 was 70,000 tons. The rapidly growing volume has been supported by strong demand for e-commerce products from China, the carrier said.

In addition, the International Air Transport Association recently released data for global passenger demand in May. Total demand, measured in revenue passenger kilometers, grew by 10.7 percent year-on-year.

"Airlines are doing everything they can to ensure smooth journeys for all travelers over the peak northern summer period," said Willie Walsh, IATA's director general.

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