An African Gem: Ethiopian Airlines

Dear Folks,

I am really enjoying the greyness and miserable weather of Belgium. Bring it on baby! After being oven roasted for many weeks in Rome, it is so good to be back in a civilized climate again. The European Parliament is back in session after the summer break, and its staffers are all sporting their lovely back-to-work clothes. It is a rather charming sight.

So, for this post I have decided to focus on the east African nation of Ethiopia and its flagship carrier Ethiopian Airlines. For all the misery that this country has endured such as famines, droughts, a border conflict with Eritrea and the brutal reign of Mengistu Haile Mariam, Ethiopia has produced a world-class airline. Someone posted a tribute video to the company on YouTube, and it almost made me cry. I felt compelled to give it a mention in this blog.

Ethiopian Airlines got its start back in 1945, and its fleet was chiefly composed of propellor driven DC-3s. The company was founded by Emperor  Haile Selassie, with the assistance of TWA. It commenced long-haul services to Europe in 1958, and in 1963 started a jet service from Addis Ababa to Nairobi. By 1971 the airline was completely managed and run by Ethiopians, who no longer needed to rely on American pilots and technicians. The airline’s reputation for reliability and excellence grew during the 1980s and 90s. It was given special recognition by the Economist in 1987 as being an example of excellence.  Today it flies to over 59 international destinations including the US, Hong Kong and Delhi. Visitors to Addis Ababa fly into Bole International’s stunning terminal which was inaugurated in 2003. The pictures really do speak for themselves!  

Ethiopian Airlines has also lent its expertise to other carriers in the region such as Kenya Airways , Air Zimbabwe, Bellview Airlines, Cape Verde Airlines and Air Madagascar. According to the company’s website, it is working to make the Ethiopian Aviation Academy the leading aviation academy in Africa. The airline has been a lifeline for landlocked African states who depend on aircraft for the delivery of essential goods. During 2008-2009, the airline delivered over 101 thousand tonnes of cargo, which it intends to increase over the coming years. It has already ordered 10 787 Boeing Dreamliners, which should start to roll off the production line next year.

In a region scarred by war, famine and hopelessness, Ethiopian Airlines has shone as a bright light showing Africa at its very best. It is no wonder that it has picked up dozens of international awards and accolades. It is also why it truly is “Africa’s link to the World”.

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