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Africa’s International Powerhouse: 76 Years Of Ethiopian Airlines

First starting its operations with former military Douglas C-47 transports, Ethiopian Airlines has grown to become Africa’s largest airline. Founded on December 21st, 1946, the carrier now has a fleet of 130 aircraft, operating a particularly diverse fleet of widebody twinjets. Having already covered the airline’s history in previous articles, let’s specifically take a look back at the carrier’s past year.

Ethiopian Airlines has grown steadily over the past few decades. Photo: Steve Knight via Flickr 

Ethiopian’s 75th year

Now 76 years old, Ethiopian’s 75th year as an airline wasn’t an easy one considering the ongoing challenges presented by the global health crisis. Sadly, the airline’s 73rd and 74th years had their own issues, too, of course. Indeed, 2021 has been a continuation of problems that began in 2019- with the carrier being one of two airlines at the center of the Boeing 737 MAX crisis.

Despite these fierce headwinds, the carrier continues to operate and demonstrate the strength of African aviation. Let’s take a look at notable news for the airline over the past 12 months. For those interested in the airline’s entire history, you can find articles here and here.

Ethiopian 777
Ethiopian Airlines’ cargo operations have been key to delivering critical freight, including batches of the COVID-19 vaccine. Photo: Getty Images

Playing a critical role throughout the crisis

April 2021 marked a milestone moment for the airline as it delivered 2.184 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine through the COVAX global vaccine-sharing initiative. The leadership at Ethiopian Airlines said that its goal was to take a leading role in transporting vaccines across the globe.

Six months later, the airline proudly announced that it had delivered over 50 million doses to more than 28 countries. The work of transporting vaccines has been carried out by the airline’s cargo division: Ethiopian Cargo and Logistics Services, Africa’s largest cargo service provider. The firm says that it has successfully distributed the vaccines via its specially equipped facility called ‘Pharma Wing.’

The airline’s focus on cargo will continue as it is partnering with IAI to setup a 767 passenger-to-freighter conversion facility at Ethiopian’s Addis Ababa hub. This new partnership was announced in August 2021.

We have transported and delivered the first batch of COVID-19 Vaccines to Ethiopia. The shipment has arrived today and delivered to the Ethiopian MoH in a ceremony held in our cargo terminal. We will keep on providing this mission-critical service to save lives. #FlyEthiopian

— Ethiopian Airlines (@flyethiopian) March 7, 2021

In addition to its work in transporting vaccinations, the airline also notes that it was one of the few carriers that worked continuously throughout the crisis amid border closures and travel restrictions. As a result, Ethiopian had reunited or repatriated more than 63,000 stranded passengers.

Continuing to grow

Despite significant setbacks to the global aviation industry, Ethiopian Airlines is continuing to grow and is setting its sights far past this crisis.

In September, the carrier took delivery of its 32nd Dash 8-400 turboprop, having already received its 30th and 31st Dash 8-400s earlier this year. Working with other African carriers (ASKY Airlines, Malawi Airlines, Ethiopian Mozambique Airlines, and Tchadia Airlines), Ethiopian group chief executive officer Tewolde GebreMariam has called these new deliveries “a testament to the joint success in supporting our network and strategic partnerships with several carriers across Africa.”

Ethiopian Airlines now has 18 Airbus A350s in its fleet. Photo: Airbus

Fleet growth includes widebodies as well, as Ethiopian also took delivery of two Airbus A350s this year, with both taking place quite recently, in December. The airline still plans to place a significant widebody order in the near future, with the Airbus A350 and Boeing 777X being the top contenders for the airline’s interest.

With everything announced in the past year, Ethiopian’s upcoming year should be another big one- which may even include a return of the 737 MAX for the carrier.

What do you think of Ethiopian’s achievements over 2021? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment.

Did you miss our previous article…