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Ethiopian Airlines Breaks Ten million Milestone As It Waits On Nigeria Air Bid

Passenger numbers have exceeded ten million at Ethiopian Airlines for the first time in its history during a year when the carrier added eight new international destinations to its network. The figures come as the airline is thought to be the frontrunner to manage start-up Nigeria Air.

Ethiopian Airlines has reported a 21 percent spike in passenger numbers to 10.6 million during its 2017/18 fiscal year, the first time the carrier has broken the ten million milestone.

The carrier opened eight new international destinations during the period to Geneva (Switzerland), Chicago (US), Bahrain, Kaduna (Nigeria), Buenos Aires (Argentina), Kisangani and Mbuji-Mayi  (Democratic Republic of Congo) and Nosy-Be (Madagascar).

Operating revenue rose 43 percent year-on-year to ET98.1 billion ($3.22bn) in the 12 months to 8 July 2018 and net profit stood at ETB6.8 billion ($250m). Ethiopian also added 14 new aircraft during the year, becoming the first African carrier to have a fleet of more than 100 aircraft.

“This performance is all the more exceptional given the very tough operating and competitive environment in Africa, where jet fuel price, our main cost driver, has soared during the year and is on average 30 percent more expensive in Africa, our home market, than in the rest of the world, putting the continent’s carriers at a severe competitive disadvantage,” said Tewolde GebreMariam, chief executive of Ethiopian Airlines.

“This remarkable result was also achieved in the backdrop of aggressive foreign carriers’ penetration into the African market with the African airline industry collectively forecasted to lose money.”

Speaking at a press conference, GebreMariam said Ethiopian is the frontrunner in the bidding process for the management of Nigeria Air.

Nigeria Air will begin operations in December 2018, the government’s aviation minister Hadi Sirika revealed during a ceremony at the Farnborough International Airshow in July.

The planned launch comes 15 years after long-standing flag carrier Nigeria Airways ceased operations and almost six years since Air Nigeria took to the skies for the final time.

Sirika said: “Nigeria has unfortunately not been a serious player in aviation for a long time. We used to be a dominant player, through Nigeria Airways, but sadly not anymore.”

He explained that the Nigerian government would not own more than 5 percent of the new carrier or have a say in how it is run.

In addition, Ethiopian Airlines is in the process of helping to revive Zambia’s national carrier, while it plans to acquire a 49 per cent stake in the new Chadian Airlines that is to be launched in October. The carrier is also backing start-up carrier Guinea Airlines.

Ethiopian’s top ten routes by passengers in the 12 months to June 2018 (source: Sabre Market Intelligence):

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