Betting big on India’s booming aviation market which has outperformed the US and China in terms of domestic passengers traffic growth, Africa’s leading carrier Ethiopian Airlines plans to expand its operations in India with new flights and aircraft upgrade.
The pan-African flag carrier currently operates a daily double service to New Delhi and Mumbai from capital city Addis Ababa. It also operates freighter services to Chennai, Bengaluru, New Delhi and Mumbai.
The airline is currently in talks with the Indian civil aviation authorities including the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) in this regard, Ethiopian Airline’s CEO Tewolde Gebremariam told PTI in Addis Ababa.
“We are looking forward to launch flight operations to Chennai from Ethiopia. We are keenly looking at (flying) passengers from Chennai,” Gebremariam said without specifying a timeline for commencement of the proposed new fight.
Ethiopian Airlines is already operating 14 flights per week to Delhi and Mumbai each, he added.
India and Ethiopia had signed a pact last year, allowing the carriers of two sides to scale up weekly flight entitlements to 28 from 21.
Under the pact, Ethiopia was also allowed to exchange Bangalore in place of Kolkata as a point of call.
Three additional domestic code share points exclusively to code share with Air India were also granted for Jaipur, Kolkata and Pune.
Both Air India and Ethiopia are part of the 27-member international airline’s club, Star Alliance and have code-share pact as well.
Code-sharing of flights allows an airline to book its passengers on its partner carriers and provide seamless transport to multiple destinations where it has no presence.
“Air India is our Star Alliance member and we have contributed a lot for India because of our long time association. We are now looking to expand the alliance (code share with Air India),” Gebremariam said.
According to the International Air Transport Association, air traffic in India grew by 19.4 per cent between January and June last year, the highest amongst top seven domestic airline markets in the world, outstripping China that grew 12.3 per cent and the US 3.7 per cent in the same period.
Globally, Ethiopian Airline operates to 111 destinations including 91 international with a fleet of 68 Boeing aircraft, making it one of the largest and only profitable African carrier.
Gebremariam said Ethiopian Airlines also planned to deploy a Boeing Dreamliner (Boeing 787-800) plane for servicing the second daily flight to New Delhi, which is currently being serviced by single-aisle B737-800 plane.
Following a spike in demand, the airline had rolled out a second service to New Delhi from March this year, he said adding, “the second plane (Boeing 737-800) is too small. So, we are going to upgrade (with) it a Dreamliner to cater to the increased demand.”
Additionally, the airline is also eying to expand its cargo services in cities like Bangalore, Hyderabad and Ahmedabad.
“We are also looking to expand our cargo services in Indian cities such as Hyderabad and Ahmedabad…India is among the top ten markets for the Ethiopian Airlines and it is trying to expand this further,” Gebremariam said.
Ethiopian Airlines considers India a good “potential market” for various sectors such as services, IT and export of pharmaceuticals, Gebremariam said, adding that, “We are now eyeing at areas where India is indulged in Africa”.
In its bid to attract more Indian fliers, the airline has employed chefs who cater to the Indian taste on its flights to and from Addis Ababa.
“We are looking for product upgrades with respect to India, which includes bringing Indian chefs to our catering, vegetarian food (other than the non-veg) and more comfort ability,” Gebremariam said.