By Samson Echenim
Ethiopian Airlines says it is interested in setting up a new airline in Nigeria and that it was in talks with the Nigerian government, private sectors and airline operators in the country.
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Tewolde Gebremariam, the airline’s group chief executive officer, told journalists in Abuja the failure of Nigeria to own a carrier was a big threat to the airline industry in Africa which is capable of displacing indigenous carriers in the continent.
“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,” Gebremariam said.
He also disclosed that the airline had discussed with the Ghanaian government about the possibility of setting up there, but said Nigeria was a much bigger 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,” he said.
Speaking further the Ethiopian Airline boss revealed that the airline loses about $3 million yearly to its operation in Kano and Enugu routes due to low passenger traffic.
He explained, “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 about $3 million per annum but overall, it is an important market for us.”
“As you know in Enugu, we are the only international airline, so it is a very challenging route for us. We fly three or four times a week and we are very happy that the route has been a very good connection for Nigerians in Diaspora especially in Europe and Africa.
“It is a direct route for most of the Nigerian people in the US. We are also happy that it has been a very good bridge in trade link between Nigeria and Dubai, Bangkok, Asia, China and other Asian countries but it is a challenging route.
“The other challenging route for us is Kano. As you know, it is highly seasonal and the weather condition is very challenging for airlines like ours but despite the challenges, we have maintained our flights even at the cost of incurring losses,” Tewolde said.