Battle for the African skies enters new dimension


Information was received earlier today that Ethiopian Airlines (ET) has taken further steps to restore itself as the “Pan African airline” it used to be, when an order for another 10 B737-800 was announced, bringing the total aircraft on order to about 45. ET presently operates a fleet of 37 aircraft, and while some of the new orders are aimed to replace current models, like the B767, others are adding capacity for new routes and destinations while also permitting for extra frequencies.

The second piece of news was that apparently ET has also launched an airline in Togo, based in Lome, which has already commenced operations with two aircraft seconded to it by Ethiopian Airlines. While Ethiopian only holds 25 percent of the shares, with the balance held by institutional and private investors, it is nevertheless thought that ET will have full management control of the new venture, making it a quasi subsidiary.

The same source also confirmed a previous report by this correspondent that Ethiopian is indeed very keen to join the global Star Alliance but that no final decision has been made. Assessments were still going on and a formal invitation by Star could materialize sometime this year.

This development will firmly pit Ethiopian – and later on Star – against Kenya Airways and Sky Team, in the unfolding competitive battle over African air traffic, passenger numbers, cargo volumes, destinations, and revenues, which will make interesting observations in the coming months and years for aviation analysts.