Amid serious challenges posed by COVID-19, Ethiopian Airlines this week marked 75 years since it commenced commercial flights. A special event was held to mark the anniversary on board a flight to Cairo.
The company operated its first-ever commercial flight on April 8 1946. It flew from Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital to Cairo, Egypt.
The carrier’s initial fleet consisted of five C-47s acquired from the US government. It has since grown to 127 aircraft.
According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Ethiopian is Africa’s biggest airline by revenue and profit,
The CEO Tewolde GebreMariam said tough times still lay ahead for aviation as coronavirus pandemic continues to affect international travel.
According to the International Civil Aviation Association (ICAO), The pandemic has hit African airlines especially hard. African airlines were at risk of losing $6 billion in revenue and 3 million jobs in 2020 compared to 2019.
Namibia folded its airline in February while the flag carriers of South Africa and Kenya have indicated they will need millions of dollars in cash assistance to fully restart operations.
To mitigate the damage, Ethiopian Airlines quickly jumped on the opportunity to move tons of medical supplies meant for coronavirus response in Africa.
On top of its 12 dedicated cargo aircraft, the company reconfigured 25 passenger planes turning them into freighters to respond to increased cargo demand.
As well as celebrating its 75th anniversary, Ethiopian Airlines also has reasons to be cheerful regarding its handling of the pandemic. Its CEO, Tewolde GebreMariam, stated that the carrier “[remains] the only commercial airline that hasn’t sought government bailout and didn’t lay off a single employee.”
In December 2020, the company announced the launch of a cold chain air freight to transport temperature-sensitive medicines. It has been contracted to deliver shipments of coronavirus vaccines to various countries in Africa.
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