East African carrier Ethiopian Airlines inaugurated flights between its hub at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa and the Brazilian cities of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo on July 1, 2013. The new route is operated via the carrier’s second hub in Lomé, Togo and serves the two Brazilian cities on a three times weekly basis using a Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
Air travel demand between Africa and Brazil is growing. In 2012, an estimated 390,000 bi-directional O&D passengers travelled on this route, which although a small decline on the numbers reported the previous year, represent a 64.1 per cent increase on the traffic levels from five years ago.
Brazil has one of the fastest growing economies and is now the fifth largest in the world. São Paulo is the biggest city in the country and the southern hemisphere. It is the economic and financial hub of the country, hosting the headquarters of numerous major corporations. Meanwhile, Rio de Janeiro, its second largest city, is the most visited city in the southern hemisphere and is known for its natural beauty, beaches and carnivals. It is also home to the famous statue of Christ the Redeemer, which is listed as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
"We are very pleased to announce to our customers that Ethiopian is spreading its wings to South America. The China-India-Africa-Brazil trade lane is the fastest growing in the world. Our new Brazil flights will provide efficient connections with 28 weekly flights to four destinations in China, 14 weekly flights to the two major cities in India, daily flights to Lebanon, five weekly flights to Tel Aviv and almost daily flights to 45 cities across Africa, said Tewolde Gebremariam, Chief Executive Officer, Ethiopian Airlines.
“The start of our operations will greatly facilitate people-to-people interactions between Brazil and the rest of the world. The various communities throughout the world with strong ties to Brazil will be able to enjoy smooth and convenient connections”, he added.
The connection opportunities offered by Ethiopian Airlines from East Africa and its sister carrier, ASKY, in West Africa will play an important role in the long-term sustainability of this route given only a small O&D demand between the two African markets and Brazil. The two airlines are co-ordinating their schedules to give short, seamless and convenient connections to West Africa, via ASKY, and into local and intercontinental markets via Ethiopian’s network from Addis Ababa.
Alongside this new Ethiopian Airlines link, there are currently three other airlines offering direct flights to Brazil from Africa. TAAG Angola is the largest operator in this market with flights from Luanda to both Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, while South African Airways (SAA) has flights between Johannesburg and São Paulo. TACV Cabo Verde Airlines also offers flights between Fortaleza and Praia and Sal in the Atlantic Ocean archipelago.
The Brazilian expansion follows just weeks after Ethiopian Airlines became the first African carrier to operate scheduled flights to Seoul in the Republic of South Korea, when it introduced a four times weekly connection from Addis Ababa. Its June 18, 2013 launch coincided with the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Ethiopia and South Korea.
The inclusion of Seoul into Ethiopian network is part of Ethiopian Vision 2025 of connecting Africa with the major world economic and financial hubs. “With the economic boom of Africa in general and Ethiopia in particular and the growing ties with South Korea, we are pleased to provide the critically essential air connectivity,” said Gebremariam.
The Vision 2025 programme at Ethiopian is based on key pillars of the business: a long-term fleet plan, self-sufficiency in aviation infrastructure like MRO, training facilities, cargo facilities and network development is key to the carrier meeting its development ambitions. Alongside the new links to Brazil and South Korea it has already confirmed further new routes to Manila and Singapore, but Africa remains critical to its strategy.
Ethiopian is already connecting 45 African cities with 30 cities in the rest of the world and it is strategically positioning itself to take advantage of expected huge growth and economic development in the continent. According to Gebremariam, it is now Africa’s time and the continent is open for business, trade, investment and tourism which will help air transport to grow at a rate that is above historical trends and above global average all through 2030.
The airline has a multi-hubbing strategy in Africa and alongside Addis Ababa has a second hub in Lome, Togo through its partnership with ASKY Airline. In a recent interview Gebremariam confirmed that Ethiopian Airlines plans to take this strategy to a higher level and add two further hubs across the Continent, one in Southern and the other in Central Africa.