This blog has been a bit of a champion for Ethiopian Airlines in the past. The carrier perhaps lacks consistency, rough round the edges occasionally, but it is a well-run airline with big plans for the future, as witnessed by its order book of B787s, B777s and A350s. So a report that the airline is joining the Star Alliance is good news in our book. Watch out US Airways (and also, less facetiously, Egyptair)!
So, after death throws that have gone on for months, SkyEurope has finally collapsed. Though it had never made money, the Slovak budget carrier has kept flying since 2002, and with bases in Slovakia, Austria, and Czech Republic, it was the first multi-based airline in Central Europe. So a sad if predictable day… (Ryanair, in typically classy fashion, has had a plane painted up with the slogan “Bye Bye Sky Europe” buzzing around European skies for some weeks.)
As luck would have it, over the weekend I was unwrapping the contents of a packing crate, and found I’d used a Saturday business section from 30th August 2008 to protect some heirloom pyrex. The top headline was Zoom and bust: Airline collapses, but ‘worse is to come’. The Canadian carrier had just gone under, following hard on the heels of business-only operators like Silverjet and Eos, Oasis in Hong Kong, and a number of US carriers such as Aloha. The article then went on to make some predictions. Alitalia was in its death throws; BA, Easyjet, and even Ryanair under great pressure as profits would soon be crashing. One way or another, the journalist surmised that airlines with access to cash would fare the best. Well much of this indeed has come to pass, though not unfortunately the death of Alitalia, possibly one of the worst airlines in the world. (OK, my own experience of Alitalia has been only mildly awful, but if you want to read a horror epic you could do worse than go here to read a tale of corporate ineptitude, arrogance and vanity that will make your hair stand on end.)
But has the last year been that bad for the airline industry? Well yes, of course, it’s been a shocker, but there have been some carriers bucking the trend, and others doing comparatively well. Air New Zealand for instance, though recently announcing slashed profits, will still be paying a dividend this autumn – not being too reliant on premium class revenue may be a major contributing factor in this Kiwi success. Other carriers such as Emirates continue to defy gravity. Perhaps more surprisingly TAP Portugal seems to be on a roll, launching new routes throughout the year, as has Turkish Airlines. Perhaps most spectacular however, is Ethiopian Airlines, which not only has more than doubled its profits this year, and is investing in new fleets of Boeings, Airbuses and Bombardiers, but is also launching new routes seemingly every five minutes. The fact that the current downturn has barely touched large swathes of Africa must have something to do with this; also perhaps that it is a well-run airline with a plan.
Unlike most airlines, Ethiopian Airlines seems to be expanding. After increasing frequencies on a number of routes earlier this year, the airline has announced new services to Malabo and Riyadh in June.
In fact, Ethiopian is quite a useful airline to know about. Founded in 1945 with assistance from TWA, by the 1960s it had established itself as Africa’s largest airline. Today its network covers New York in the west to Beijing in the east, with several European destination in between. By all accounts its base at Addis Ababa is very modern and fairly efficient, and its African network now covers the whole of the continent south of the Sahara. It flies to Heathrow at least three times a week.