Let us take some time off crying over the waste of tax payers money that is SAA to congratulate Ethiopian Airlines on its 100 aircraft milestone. With its latest acquisition, a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, it is the first african airline to reach that feat.
The carrier is a SOE (State Owned Enterprise) success story, a business that has surpassed its competitors (EgyptAir, Kenya Airways and South African Airways) to become Africa’s largest airline which also operates Africa’s largest aviation training academy.
In 2010, after exceeding goals which it had set for itself for that year, the airline embarked on a 15 year development plan named “Vision 2025”. It includes increasing the number of destinations to 90 by the year 2025 (CEO Tewolde Gebremariam announced it already reached 100 destinations), increasing its fleet, passenger traffic, cargo etc. According to their website, the airlines vision is “To become the most competitive and leading aviation group in Africa by providing safe, market driven and customer focused passenger and cargo transport, aviation training, flight catering, MRO and ground services by 2025”.
Passenger trends between 2011 and 2016
Ethiopian Airlines is a business run by professionals with years of experience in the aviation industry. It does not depend on government bailouts and has grown significantly in the past 13 years. It demonstrates the ability of African SOE’s to succeed. What keeps our (South African) SOE’s from succeeding is the high amount of political influence and sometimes lack of skilled management. SAA has reported operating losses amounting to more than R18 billion in the past ten years. Since government refuses to sell the airline, perhaps it needs to completely detach itself from its operations because at this point it cannot even be called a business anymore. It is more like a service for the elite few provided by ordinary tax payers with absolutely no returns.