While air travel industry has been billed as enjoying significant growth, African airlines have to make significant investment and strategic decisions to tap the benefits.
The growth, fuelled by the continent’s rising economic profile, makes the more urgent for air travel stakeholders to position themselves strategically to exploit the opportunities according to Tewolde Gebremariam, the Ethiopian Airlines Chief Executive Officer, who also urges the world to promote trade and investments in resource-rich Africa.
Speaking at a signing ceremony here last week where Ethiopian Airlines joined the aviation industry’s oldest and most experienced flight operation alliance, Star Alliance network, Gebremariam said: “This part of the world with over a billion people and rich resources in the next and perhaps the last place to find solutions as the world goes through crisis”.
The view of a promising market growth was shared by Jaan Albrecht, outgoing Chief Executive Officer of the 28-member airline network, Star Alliance, who said Africa has been enjoying steady growth rates, adding: “Ethiopian Airlines will bring the Star Alliance customer benefits to more markets across Africa, a region of the world in which air travel is enjoying steady growth rates,” he said.
Albrecht said the membership of Ethiopian would enable the Alliance to offer “our customers the widest choice of flights connecting to, from and within Africa.”
The Ethiopian Airlines’ membership to the Alliance group offers it access to the products and benefits of the largest network with daily flights to 1, 290 destinations.
According to Albrecht, with addition of Ethiopian, Star Alliance member carriers serving Africa offer more than 750 daily flights to over 110 destinations in 48 countries, with Addis Ababa, Cairo and Johannesburg serving as the main hubs.
The airline currently flies to 62 destinations. In readiness for expected increase in demand, Ethiopian is adding to its fleet of 47 aircrafts, 10 Boeing 787 Dreamliner jets, with the first delivery expected in June, next year.
The airline says the move fits in well with the need to offer Africa the travel benefits that come with the membership, such as worldwide flight connections at special fares for delegates and participants and the Star Alliance Africa Airpass, a special fare designed for those wishing to criss-cross the continent by air.