The most affected business by the covid-19 pandemic has been the aviation industry. In addition to the lockdown which saw many airlines world over ground their planes, there has also been a downturn in travel demand, causing loses to all airlines.
One such airline is Ethiopian Airline. In April this year, Ethiopian Airlines had already lost half a billion dollars. Despite such a huge loss, it has not received, nor does it hope to receive any form of bailout.
“Many of the European and American carriers have got a very rich Uncle Sam who is supplying them with these funds. But for us, we do not have that kind of a luxury. So, we have to run for our own life. So far, we have not pursued anything of the sort,” says Ethiopian Airlines Chief Operating Officer Esayas WoldeMariam.
Instead, the national carrier has turned its attention to cargo to stay afloat. “We’re getting by with cargo, and with repatriation flights. Through this, it has been making ends meet and paid all of our overhead and fixed costs, and all our other commitments. We have not defaulted on any payment so far.”
Early on in the pandemic, Ethiopian Airlines noted a huge slump in cargo capacity flying the world’s routes. The lack of passenger planes operating stripped almost half the total cargo capacity out of the market.
“When that [capacity] was reduced, and the need for conveyance of PPE was surging, then we had to come up with a solution. Necessity pushed us into converting 25 aircraft plus we used our existing cargo aircraft, 12 of them, so altogether we were working with about 37 of them.”
Ethiopian converted 25 of its 777s for cargo, including stripping out the passenger seats to give cargo capacity. Cargo alone helped them survive until July.
Now that demand is slowly picking up, some of those 777s are having their seats put back.
Since the very start of the crisis, the airline has been a top choice for governments to get their people home.
“When repatriation emerges, the early bird is catching the fat worm. The fact that we have been responding quickly, and we have competitive prices, we have a high standard of hygiene and protection, which is stipulated by CDC and World Health. So all this put together has made us a better choice.”
Additional information from Simple Flying