When the first Ethiopian Airlines’ scheduled flight took off from Addis Ababa Airport on the 8th of April 1946 on a flight to Cairo via Asmara in a Douglas C-47 Skytrain, not everyone who had been around knew or even remotely thought that Ethiopian Airlines would grow into an aviation force to reckon with.
Founded on 21 December 1945, Ethiopian Airlines, often referred to simply as Ethiopian, is the flag carrier of Ethiopia, a sovereign state located in the Horn of Africa. Ethiopian Airlines is wholly owned by the government of Ethiopia, a fact which still surprises many taking into account the envious successes the airline has achieved over the years.
Recently, Ethiopian Airlines celebrated its 70th anniversary with so many giant strides and envious achievements to show for it. During these past seventy years, Ethiopian has grown to become one of the leading carriers on the continent of Africa. With five Douglas C-47 Skytrains in 1946 and a couple of destinations, Ethiopian Airlines has metamorphosed into an intercontinental airline of international repute. Commanding a lion’s share of the pan African network, it flies into 93 international and 20 domestic destinations using some of the world’s youngest and most technologically advanced aircraft including the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and the Airbus A350 XWB.
Ethiopian is an airline of many firsts. It was the first African airline to order and operate the Boeing 767 as well as being the first passenger Airline in the world to operate the Boeing 757 Freighter. In February 2005, Ethiopian Airlines became the first African airline to order the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and on August 14, 2012 in Seattle, Washington, it took delivery of its first Boeing 787 becoming the first airline in Africa to do so.
On 28 June, 2016, Ethiopian Airlines became the first Airline in Africa to take delivery of Airbus A350XWB, in an elaborate ceremony in Toulouse, France. On July 2, 2016, the airlines operated the new aircraft to Lagos, making it the first airline in the world to fly the Airbus A350 XWB airplane in the African skies. The airline had also on the on July 1 received its 14th Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
Ethiopian is the only African airline that is truly self-sufficient in all aviation training systems. The Ethiopian Aviation Academy which was established in 1956 has since grown into an aviation training institution of international repute. Since inception, the Academy has proved itself to be a center of excellence in developing skilled workforce for operational divisions of not only Ethiopian Airlines but also airlines and aviation companies all over Africa.
The ICAO-certified academy offers world class training for Pilots, Aircraft Maintenance Engineers, Cabin Crew, Marketing & Sales as well as Management and Leadership personnel. Ethiopian was the first airline in Africa to acquire a Boeing 787 full-flight simulator in addition to having Boeing 777 simulator, Boeing757/Boeing767 Simulator, Boeing 737 NG Simulator and Bombardier Q400 Simulator
Under the leadership of the award-winning CEO, Tewolde Gebremariam, who has been at the helm of affairs since 2011, Ethiopian Airlines has become the preferred airline for air travellers, the haven for investors and the envy of other airlines. From ordering and taking delivery of latest-technology aircraft to aggressive route development, Ethiopian has become the fastest growing and the largest African airline and definitely one of the few profit making airlines in Africa. The airline has won numerous awards including the African Aviation “African Airline of the Year” Award for 2016 and SKYTRAX World Airline Award for “Best Airline Staff in Africa” Award 2016.
Ironically, at a time when many African government-owned and even private airlines are making losses and having redundant growth, Ethiopian Airlines’ professionalism and accountability has made it Africa’s most profitable airline, despite being wholly owned by the Government. No wonder the Christian Science Monitor in 1988 termed it a "capitalist success in Marxist Ethiopia". Since 2005 Ethiopian Airlines’ annual growth rates have been between 20 to 25 percent. In 2015, it recorded profits of $148 million which, according to International Air Transport Association, is more than all of the other African carriers combined.
In its mission statement, the airline states it hopes to be the most competitive and leading aviation group in Africa by providing safe, market driven and customer-focused passenger and Cargo Transport, Aviation Training, Flight Catering, Maintenance Repair and Overhaul (MRO), Ground Services, Domestic and regional services by 2025. But in my own opinion, Ethiopian Airlines is already all of that and more importantly, the airline others wish they were.