Ethiopian Airlines was forced to heavily adapt during the peak months of the pandemic. The flag carrier of Ethiopia took it upon itself to redeploy its aircraft to meet urgent cargo demand while conducting over 470 critical repatriation flights.
Now, recovery is underway, and the airline is once again evolving. Simple Flying recently spoke with Ethiopian Airlines USA Regional Director Samson Arega, about his airline’s growth strategy in this new era.
The refocusing on air cargo helped Ethiopian Airlines end 2021 in a profitable state thanks to a boom in freight demand. Overall, the airline handled the pandemic with its own finances without bailouts while operating close to 70% capacity as the new year arrived.
To handle the challenging conditions of the global health crisis and enter recovery in a strong position, Ethiopian developed a four-pillar growth strategy. The focus areas are:
Following the rise of the pandemic, the company capitalized on these pillars and used its agile workforce and technology to cope with the crisis. Samson highlights that the flexibility of its management has been critical in devising new strategies to come through the crisis, including the reconfiguration of passenger aircraft into cargo and redeployment of staff to its least affected business units while applying cost leadership strategies.
Keeping the momentum going
In this next chapter, these pillars will remain integral. Samson told Simple Flying the following about his airline’s recovery plans:
“Passenger business is recovering. Complete recovery is dependent on the confidence of travelers and airlines’ safety measures. For us, safety has been at the heart of our operation, and we stepped up precautionary actions to help gain passenger confidence in travel and expedite recovery. Digitization has also been a priority to bring about a contactless passenger experience from booking all the way to boarding. At the airport, customers’ experience is contactless, easy, and convenient with the newly designed terminal equipped with the latest aviation infrastructure. We digitized most airport activities.”
Samson adds that passengers can seamlessly book, check-in or change travel dates from home. Moreover, most customer flight requirements can be handled by the carrier’s app. As a result, the majority of passenger queries are addressed online with the additional help of chatbots and social media channels.
There have been significant changes already this year. Notably, long-time CEO Tewolde GebreMariam stepped down due to health issues and was quickly replaced by new CEO Mesfin Tasew Bekele in March.
Ethiopian didn’t waste time following this shift, with the carrier announcing a thrice-weekly service on an Addis Ababa-Lomé-Washington route that will begin on June 1st using Boeing 787-8 aircraft. The airline’s leadership is keen to optimize opportunities on North American routes, looking to cater to demand from growing business segments.
Ethiopian Airlines concludes that it is determined to recover in the passenger space with the effective practice of safety measures to boost customer confidence.
All in all, the airline’s ability to adapt and show resilience is due to its 75-year journey that has allowed it due evolve with the times. This factor is significant at this time when countries are starting to ease restrictions and airlines need to transition themselves to new challenges to restore business. Therefore, the carrier is working closely with other airlines, airport operators, and aviation regulatory bodies to make the most of this crucial period