Airline In Focus: Ethiopian Airlines

As CEO Tewolde GebreMariam steps down, Routes looks at the East African carrier’s network growth during his time in charge.

Credit: Michael Tewelde/AFP/Getty Images
Tewolde GebreMariam has retired from his role as Ethiopian Airlines CEO.

Ethiopian Airlines this week confirmed that CEO Tewolde GebreMariam has taken early retirement after more than a decade at the helm.

The carrier said GebreMariam has been receiving medical treatment in the US for the past six months and is unable to continue leading the airline.

Mesfin Tasew Bekele has been named as his replacement. He has 38 years of experience in airline management and operations and has been CEO of Togo-based ASKY Airlines since 2021. Prior to that, Bekele served as Ethiopian’s CCO from 2010 until leaving for ASKY. 

GebreMariam became CEO of Ethiopian in January 2011 at a time when the airline operated around 33 aircraft. Over the past decade, its fleet has increased to 120 aircraft, with a further 36 on order.

Looking at the airline’s network growth during GebreMariam’s time in charge, OAG Schedules Analyser data shows that capacity has increased from 8.3 million seats in 2012 to 21.5 million in 2019. After dropping to 11.8 million in 2020, it rebounded to 14.8 million last year.

The latest figures for March 2022 show that the carrier is operating about 1.3 million monthly seats—about 77% of the total offered in March 2019 before the pandemic. By July 2022, the figure is expected to increase to 1.7 million seats, down by just 8% on the same month three years earlier.

In terms of destinations, Ethiopian is currently flying to 114 points around the world from its Addis Ababa (ADD) hub.

At its pre-pandemic peak in December 2019, the carrier served 143 destinations worldwide. This compares with 75 in January 2012 when GebreMariam was just one year into his role as CEO.