As part of our special supplement on summer travel, The Times Kuwait had the opportunity to sit down with Samson Arega, Area Manager-Kuwait, for Ethiopian Airlines to learn more about an airline that is undisputedly the leading air-carrier on the African continent.
We began by asking him about Ethiopian Airlines and its operation.
“Ethiopian Airlines is the unstoppable aviation giant in Africa flying to more than 110 international destinations across five continents. We cover 58 African cities with a direct service, which is even more than the number of countries on the continent. Established 72 years ago, the fully government-owned airline’s hub is in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa, with two additional strategic hubs in Lome, the capital of Togo and in Malawi.
Operationally, Ethiopian commands the lion’s share of the pan-African passenger and cargo network operating the youngest and most modern fleet. Our fleet includes ultra-modern and environmentally friendly aircraft such as Airbus A350, Boeing 787-8, Boeing 787-9, Boeing 777-300ER, Boeing 777-200LR, Boeing 777-200 Freighter, Boeing 737-800 and the Bombardier Q-400 double cabin, with an average fleet age of five years. In fact, we are the first airline in Africa to own and operate these aircraft.”
So, what is Ethiopian Airlines strategy for GCC and particularly for Kuwait?
“Given our huge network in Africa, we are now connecting the continent to the rest of the world including Middle East. This region is very important due to the massive trade, business and tourism ties between Africa and Middle East. Currently we are flying to all GCC countries and more three additional destinations in Middle East that makes the total destination to Middle Eastern countries to 10, including Kuwait.
As for the Kuwait market specifically, we are diversifying the market with introduction of leisure traffic out of the country mainly to Ethiopia, Africa and to the two South American cities which we have a direct flight, Sao Paulo in Brazil and Buenos Aires in Argentina. We have also started preparing very attractive tailored excursion packages to some of the most exotic places in Africa, where tourists from Kuwait can travel for leisure and have a very good time with immense activates which includes but not limited to, hunting, safari, bird watching, wildlife spotting, fishing, traditional music performance.
We believe that our daily service from Kuwait with a very suitable and shorter connecting hours at Addis Ababa’s Bole International Airport will provide an excellent flight experience to our esteemed customers and to this end Ethiopian Holidays, our tour operator wing, has launched a newly revamped website that avails accessible, affordable and attractive tour packages to Ethiopian Airlines’ major tourist destinations in Ethiopia and its vast international network.
Are you planning to promote tourism traffic to Ethiopia and Africa?
“Ethiopia is a land of diversity, rich with history and home to nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the uncommon combination of history, culture, nature and adventure makes Ethiopia a unique, must- visit destination for all travelers.
“Furthermore, to support tourist flow Ethiopian Immigration and Nationality Affairs Main Department in collaboration with Ethiopian Airlines has launched an e-visa service for all international visitors to Ethiopia effective 1 June of this year. Though the e-visa service initially launched in June 2017, it was available only for a limited number of countries; under the new initiative all international visitors will be able to travel to Ethiopia by processing their visa online.”
Are you planning any new route expansion plans for this year?
“We are introducing five new destinations in six months of the current year. June-December, Ethiopian will be connecting Chicago in USA, Geneva in Switzerland, Istanbul in Turkey, Moscow in Russia and Barcelona in Spain.
We have also concluded a code share agreement with Air Côte d’Ivoire that allows passengers originating from West African countries, especially from Lagos, Bamako, Cotonou, Accra and Lomé, to board Air Côte d’Ivoire flights and enjoy fast and seamless connection to Newark on-board Ethiopian direct service to Newark via Abidjan.”
Tell us about your latest Aviation and Catering Facility in Africa?
“Ethiopian Aviation Academy (EEA) is the largest and the oldest Aviation Academy in the continent established in 1956. The Academy has been revamped with $100 million and inaugurated two years back. And it is profoundly equipped with modern training aircraft, computer-based trainings, full flight simulators, and other ultra-modern facilities.
The Aviation Academy is an ICAO designated Regional Training Center of Excellence. We also offer tailor-made training solutions. Training could also be arranged for delivery at client site, as appropriate.
Catering unit is newly designed and built to accommodate and meet the ever-growing catering needs with a daily capability of producing more than 100,000 meals; most importantly our catering facility has started providing Halal kitchen service.”
What are some of the awards you have won in recent years?
“Yes, Ethiopian is a multi-award-winning airline. In November 2017, SKYTRAX, the prestigious international air transport standards and quality rating organization, certified our airline as a Four-Star Airline. SKYTRAX also awarded Ethiopian as SKYTRAX World Airline Award for Best Airline Staff in Africa, two times. And, earlier in 2017, we have received SKYTRAX World Airline Award for Best Airline in Africa.
“We are currently implementing a 15-year strategic plan called Vision 2025 that will see Ethiopian become the leading aviation group in Africa. We are on a rapid growth with a very clear strategic plan towards 2025 — to add 120 international and 26 domestic destinations with a revenue of over $10 billion.”