Shorter travel times to Africa, a new e-visa process for travel to Ethiopia, and an ambitious expansion strategy titled Vision 2025 are just some of the reasons that Ethiopian Airlines continues its rapid growth in Canada, representatives told PAX in Toronto this week.
The airline, which recently marked its fifth anniversary in the Canadian market, currently operates three direct flights from Toronto to Addis Ababa per week, and Birhan Abate, area manager, Canada, said that among its strongest selling points remains its connectivity: Canadians travelling to Africa with Ethiopian Airlines have the option of a daytime departure from Canada – and a daytime arrival in Africa.
“The departure times are convenient from Canada, especially from Toronto,” he said. “You [can] have a daytime departure, and from other parts of Canada, departures that could be in the morning; then, when you are in the destination – whether in Addis Ababa or the rest of Africa – you have a daytime arrival.”
The airline, Abate added, has worked hard to deliver shorter travel times and smooth connections between Addis Ababa and the rest of Africa. “The most important value that we added for travel from Canada is the connectivity out of Addis,” he commented. “That means the flying hours from any Canadian cities to any party of Africa is getting much shorter with Ethiopian Airlines.
“The moment people land in the morning in Addis, they will have another flight after an hour or [up to] three. So, the total flight duration is much less, and the prices are very competitive. We want to match value for the money that our passengers are paying.” Abate also confirmed that the airline is currently seeking to increase the number of flights it operates between Canada and Africa to further enhance connectivity.
PAX in conversation with Birhan Abate, area manager Canada and R David Timmins, sr. sales representative, of Ethiopian Airlines.
Making things easier with the e-visa
Canadian travel to Ethiopia is expected to be boosted significantly by the recent launch of an e-visa program, allowing travellers to apply for and receive their entry visa online. When the online application has been approved, an email will be sent to applicants authorizing them to travel to Ethiopia, with the visa stamped on their passport upon arrival in Addis Ababa.
Abate told PAX that the new process made it much quicker and easier for Canadians to enter Ethiopia. “When we think of travel, everyone likes simplicity,” he commented.
“Getting a visa to Ethiopia used to be [done in] two ways: either take it from the embassy in Ottawa, or get it on arrival in a day. But the new platform allows travellers to get their electronic visa online in advance, prior to the departure… they don’t have to go to Ottawa, and they don’t have to worry, ‘Will I get my visa on arrival or not?’”
Ethiopian’s Vision 2025, which commenced in 2010, aims to deliver fast, profitable and sustainable growth with strong synergy among the airline’s various business units by focusing on four key pillars: infrastructure, fleet, HRD, and systems.
The infrastructure goals were boosted at the end of June by the inauguration of a $150m cargo terminal – which, combined with the existing terminal, gives the airline a total tonnage capacity of around one million per annum, making it the largest in Africa.
Heavy investment has also been made in expanding and improving the company’s fleet, with orders currently placed for 46 new aircraft including B777s, A350s, B787s, B737s and Q-400s.
The airline’s Aviation Academy, meanwhile, operates as a hub for the education of pilots, aircraft maintenance technicians and cabin crew, while also housing a school of marketing and finance.
Its intake capacity, currently set at 1,300 trainees, is expected to rise to 4,000 by 2025 – with Abate noting that it remains a crucial component of Ethiopian Airlines’ future strategy. “The aviation academy has become a very good foundation for Ethiopian Airlines,” he commented.
The end goal of Vision 2025 is to deliver a diversified airline group with seven business groups including international services, regional services, cargo services, catering services, ground services, MRO services and the aviation academy. “We are in the seventh year now,” Abate confirmed. “It has three phases; we are in the second year of the second phase.”
Travel to Ethiopia on the rise
With Ethiopian Airlines anticipating fourfold growth over the next decade, it’s no surprise that its representatives foresee heightened interest in travel between Canada and Ethiopia in the future.
“There are so many tourism packages available for sale for anyone who wants to discover Ethiopia and the rest of Africa,” said Abate. “I can confidently say that in Ethiopia, there are a lot of things to be discovered.”
Birhan Abate and R David Timmins of Ethiopian Airlines.
The airline recently had the honour of escorting Canada’s athletes to the Francophone Games in Abidjan, and it remains firmly focused on continuing its strong commitment to increasing travel to Ethiopia through collaboration with the Canadian travel industry.
“Currently, we are working with the major tour operators, showing them how big Ethiopia is as a resource for their customers – because there are a lot of tourist destinations,” Abate confirmed. “It can be geographical, it can be cultural, it can be sport – there are [a lot of] different events happening in Ethiopia.
“There is some golden opportunity in Ethiopia for tourists,” he concluded. “They will go there, and they will be amazed. Africa is getting to become a hotspot for tourism – and Ethiopia is being ranked at the top.”