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Ethiopian Airlines eyes Bulawayo, Air Zimbabwe deal

by Staff reporter
28 Mar 2017 at 05:52hrs | Views

Ethiopian Airlines is exploring plans to fly to Bulawayo, as Africa's largest carrier expands its footprint on the local market.

Ethiopian International Services managing director, Esayas Woldemariam told journalists on Sunday the carrier had set its eyes on Bulawayo.

"We are planning to expand to Bulawayo. We are studying our numbers and because we have a desire to connect Bulawayo population, especially traders and business people, to Dubai and to China," he said.

"In China, we go to Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and Hong Kong and next month, we are going to land in Chengdu."

Plans to launch a service to Bulawayo come after the airline made its maiden flight to Victoria Falls on Sunday.

The carrier will be flying four times a week on the route — Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays — to the resort.

It will be the first new carrier into the route after a $150 million upgrade of the airport. The airline flies daily to Harare.

Woldemariam said the airline continued to operate to Harare when other airlines stopped flying, as "we are African to the bone marrow".

"Through thick and thin, be it rain or sunshine, we have shown our allegiance to the cause of our fellow Africans," he said.

Zimbabwe suffered a flight of carriers between 2000 and 2008, when the political and economic fortunes nose-dived. The situation was arrested at the inception of a government of national unity in 2009.

The Ethiopian boss said he was promoting Zimbabwe as a holiday destination, boasting that the airline was a "flying tourism board of Zimbabwe and a flying tourism board of Africa".

The airline flies to 56 destinations in Africa. It has a fleet of 87 aircrafts and has made an order for an additional 55.

The expansion by Ethiopian Airlines comes as budget airlines have sprouted up, eating into the share of some national carriers.

Woldemariam said Ethiopian Airlines was not competing with them, but rather co-operating with the no-frills airlines.

"We want to see more budget airlines and more national carriers of Africa. We want to see more of them. The more we are, the merrier. We want to keep the traffic from the Middle East big three and from the European and others to African airlines because Africa has a lot in common to cooperate than to compete," he said, adding that his airline was "African to the core and knows better what the African customers wants".

Ethiopian Airlines has been linked to a partnership with national carrier, Air Zimbabwe. Woldemariam confirmed talks were underway.

"It depends on the political will of the Government of Zimbabwe on how they want to put it whether it is going to be joint venture or management consultancy," he said, adding Zimbabwe had "very intelligent" people, but the airline was lacking focus.

Source - newsday