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‘How Nigerian airlines can get it right in 2018’


• Passengers, officials laud Ethiopian’s all-women operated flight

Until local airlines in the country device means to connect different routes nationwide, their chances of survival and growth may continue to be slim.Ethiopian Airlines’ (ET) General Manager for International Services, Esayas WoldeMariam Hailu, made this submission as he urged operators in Nigeria to focus more on route network operations and the use of the right equipment in 2018.

Citing from ET’s experience, Hailu said the aviation business is only marginally profitable from widening network and right aircraft type, than focusing on few routes that are considered viable. With network operation, more Nigerians stand the chance of travelling by air, increase overall traffic and revenue accrue to the airlines, regulators and even state coffers.

In a related development, Ethiopian Airlines has been commended for the successful all-women operated flight to Lagos last Saturday. Passengers onboard the Boeing 777 flight from Addis Ababa and the receiving officials in Lagos all commended the initiative as another showcase of the potential of the women-folks.Hailu, a former Country Manager of Ethiopian Airlines in Nigeria, told reporters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, that the success of the ET’s operations as the largest carrier in Africa today, is hinged on network operations.

The airline, which has its largest single African market in Nigeria, thrives by connecting all 55 routes on the continent, including the less profitable.
Hailu said: “Not all the routes in Africa are profitable but the routes have little contributions to overall traffic. For one, all the routes in Nigeria are loss making but they have network contribution. Second is that, whatever you lose on one route, you subsidise it with other.

“So, we serve the entire continent as one piece. That is our strategy. Without Nigeria in our network, it just doesn’t work because that is the largest population and the people are very mobile,” he said.The MD added that with all the airlines concentrating on the most viable routes – Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and perhaps Kano – the traffic share per airline becomes small and inadequate to sustain and cover the high cost of operation in Nigeria.

ET, according to him, takes pride in regional integration, which explains its alliances with other airlines.“We have that civic contribution of ours. We started with the tag line of bringing Africa together, that was 72 years ago. Now, having established the vastest network in Africa, we have succeeded in the civic duty. We are now linking Africa with the rest of the world. Our new commercial tag line is ‘the new spirit of Africa’.”

Hailu said further that besides using the right type of aircraft that is commensurate with particular route, the Maintenance Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facility for the aircraft-type is also very important “because aviation without MRO is incomplete.”

“Aircraft has to be maintained. It has A checks within every cycle, then B and C checks that are deeper ones. If we depend on others (foreign MROs) for our maintenance, then they will charge us arms and legs. It is not going to be sustainable. We need to be self-sustaining when it comes to maintenance. That is why ET has its own MRO and maintain all its aircraft in Addis Ababa.

“Not only that, it also maintains for the Gulf and African carriers. ET is not just an airline but an aviation group, having its own airline, cargo, domestic network, maintenance, catering and ground handling. We have both forward and backward integration. There is a choice for any business; make or buy. For ET, we choose to do it in an integrated way because we are an aviation group that do all the services ourselves and also for others, including the trainings,” he said.

On the recent all-women operated flight to Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos, last Saturday, Hailu said it was to further break the stereotype against African women.He said women are actually capable of handling anything and everything including a high-tech machine like a new Boeing or Airbus equipment, to fly, engineer, operate and conduct it.

The initiative, which is first in Africa, was indeed well received. The flight, Captained by Amsale Gualu, had 391 passengers – 363 Economy and 28 Business Class – on a B777- 300 aircraft.GM Ethiopian Airlines Nigeria, Firihewot Mekonnen, at a reception in Lagos, said ET has decided to always reward the Nigerian travellers for their loyalty. Hence, the decision to bring the first all-women operated flight in Africa to Lagos, Nigeria.

Mekonnen said: “Nigeria is not just our great partner but also a country that has shown Africa what women can do. Women can achieve a lot and Nigeria is a leading light in women empowerment in Africa. One of first women pilots in Africa is a Nigerian. Today, Ethiopian Airlines is proud to be the first to operate an all-women operated flight to Nigeria.”

Chairman House Committee on Aviation, Nkieruka Onyejeocha, said the ET all-female crew showed that women are no longer back-benchers, rather “breaking grounds on all fronts”.

Onyejeocha said: “I have asked some of the passengers and they said the flight was very good and without turbulence. They (passengers) in fact, want all international flights to be all-women. The way to do it is to get more female wards in science and aviation related courses. We have need for their manpower. So, it is a call on us all to look inward in training of our female wards. We thank ET for their support.”

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