Ethiopian Airlines Group Chief Executive Officer Tewolde GebreMariam has revealed that the new launch date for Zambia Airways is December 1st 2021.
The launch of Zambian Airways which is a partnership between the Industrial Development Corporation and Ethiopian Airlines has missed several launch deadlines with the latest being September 1st when it was due to take to the skies.
Mr GebreMariam confirmed that all is set for the launch on December 1st and that the new airline has obtained all necessary regulatory approvals.
He also announced that Ethiopian Airlines will be launching a new airline in the DRC in partnership with the Congolese government.
Mr GebreMariam said in early December, Ethiopian Airlines will start a new carrier in Kinshasa with a fleet of 10 aircraft and that the carrier will be named Air Congo.
“We just signed [an agreement] with the government of DRC, which owns 51% of the airline and 49% is with us. The fleet will comprise De Havilland Canada Dash 8-400s, Boeing 737s and two 787s.”
He noted that the DRC presented a significant market opportunity, as the country boasts the third-largest population in Africa with 100 million inhabitants.
Elsewhere, Ethiopian is also involved in the launch of a new airline in Zambia which is set to launch on 1st December. “We have the AOC, the aircraft—51% will be held by the government and 49% by us,” the CEO said.
Describing Ethiopian Airlines’ role, Mr. GebreMariam said his carrier is able to bring in all the necessary support to get a new airline off the ground; this includes aircraft, pilots, technicians and leadership.
“The driver for such a group of airlines is not the return on investment. It is to support our hub Addis Ababa (ADD),” he said.
“We want to expand inter-African routes further, because the connectivity [within the continent] is still not well. Ethiopian Airline is like the Lufthansa Group of Africa. Lufthansa has airlines like SWISS, Austrian etc.”
Ethiopian also has its own-brand airline in Mozambique, but was forced to stop operations in May 2021 as a result of the pandemic.
“Our airline in Mozambique will come back. But the country itself has big challenges even beyond COVID-19,” GebreMariam said.
Ethiopian Airlines has further strategic partnerships with ASKY in Togo on the west coast, Malawian Airlines in southern Africa and Chad-based Tchadia Airlines in north-central Africa.
Ethiopian also has a management contract with Ceiba Intercontinental in Equatorial Guinea.
In GebreMariam’s view, cooperation with airlines in Africa is difficult; especially when it comes to establishing a new carrier.
Previously, Ethiopian had wanted to be part of the re-established South African Airways.
“We have been active with South African Airways to give them proposals, but unfortunately we were not selected,” he said.
Another market where the CEO sees opportunities is Nigeria. “[In Nigeria] we are still in discussions to set up an airline,” GebreMariam said. “And it is still in my mind that we have to do something in Northern Africa.”