Ethiopian Airlines, Africa’s largest carrier, is in talks with the federal government, the private sector and airline operators in the aviation industry with a view to setting up a new airline. The airline said the long absence of flag carrier for Nigeria was a big threat to the airline industry in Africa as foreign operators have the capacity of displacing indigenous carriers in the continent.
Ethiopian Airlines Group Chief Executive Officer, Tewolde Gebremariam, disclosed this during a chat with reporters in Nigeria’s capital city, Abuja.
He revealed that the airline loses about $3million annually to its operation of Kano and Enugu route because of low traffic. On why he was in Nigeria, Gebremariam said: “We have been discussing and exploring possibilities to establish or support a strong airline in Nigeria. I don’t mean that there is no strong airline in Nigeria, but we want an airline that can satisfy the demand of the domestic market, the regional market and international market.
“We are also in talks with Ghana government to establish Ghana Airways but the biggest market which is Nigeria has been a challenge to be honest with you.
“We are discussing at all levels. We are also discussing with private carriers, local carriers in Nigeria and the government but we are making it abundantly clear that we want to start a new one because starting from a clean slate or paper is advantageous because we won’t have any legacy or baggage to carry.
“There is a strong indication and interest from both sides and I am very hopeful that very soon, we will have a strong base to start with and from our track record; we have established Asky, Malawi, Mozambique and now Chad.
“We make sure that when we start something, we start professionally and ensure that it succeeds.”
On the impact of Nigeria not owning a carrier, he said: “Nigeria is a very large country but unfortunately, since the demise of Nigeria Airways, we are unfortunate that we don’t have a strong carrier.
“So, this concern is part of continental concern because in Africa, non-African carriers have the biggest shares.
“It is around 80-20 ratio. 80 percent of the traffic between Africa and the rest of the world is carried by non-African carriers
On its loss, he said: “It is not the most profitable but an important market. You know we fly to Lagos and Abuja daily, we have very good traffic but at the same time we also fly to Kano and Enugu where we don’t make money.
“We lose money and those two stations lose around $3million per annum but overall, it is an important market for us.