Accelerated Shift to Cargo Saved Ethiopian, Says CEO

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ENA May 27/2020 The accelerated shift of Ethiopian Airlines to cargo transport has become a lifesaver to the aviation group, Group CEO Tewolde revealed.

The turn of events as a result of COVID-19 is almost without precedent, and in little over two months the civil aviation industry prospects in much of the world have taken a dramatic turn for the worse.

Many airlines across the world are cutting capacity and taking emergency measures to reduce costs in order to stay afloat.

In an exclusive interview with ENA, Ethiopian Group CEO Tewolde Gebremariam said the passenger business is almost not there — about 90 to 95 percent is gone, and most of the airplanes are parked.

Having invested heavily in cargo in the last 10 years and the good opportunity to grab, Ethiopian had to make very quick decision and move to cargo, the CEO disclosed.

“The fact that we have invested adequately in cargo has become life saving for the airline. Had it not been for cargo, we would not have survived this far. So the first was the right investment that we made at the right time, which is helping us now. And the second one is the flexibility and agility of the management and the employees to quickly move from passenger to cargo business,” he elaborated.

According to Tewolde, the facility of the state-of-the-art of Ethiopian Airlines cargo has made WFP and the entire UN agencies select it as a humanitarian hub to distribute medical and food supplies as well as all other necessary supplies to Africa.

“We are now delivering much needed and lifesaving medical supplies to all African countries,”  he pointed out.

The CEO stated that the airline has converted 25 passenger aircraft to cargo to double capacity.

Ethiopian is a pan-African airline right from the beginning, Tewolde stated, emphasizing that  “Ethiopian Airlines has always been bringing Africa together and closer to the world. So now it is playing the continuous process of African integration.”

Speaking about the impact of COVID-19 on the airline, the CEO said the cargo is earning only 15 percent of the income, which is still small in terms of size because 85 percent of the aviation group revenue comes from passenger.

“We are expanding this 15 percent to reach something like 30 percent. As we speak, I think we might have reached 30 percent. This is enough to cover the fixed costs. That is why we are managing cash flow and still paying loan with interest, aircraft lease rental, salaries and other expenses,” he noted.

Ethiopian Airlines owns 20 cargo freighter aircrafts and has a facility built under the cost of 150 million Euros.