ADDIS ABEBA – Ethiopian Airlines will focus on hauling cargo, its chief executive Tewolde Gebremariam said, as the airlines seeks to battle the devastating impact of coronavirus on the global aviation industry.
“We have refocused our time, energy and resources to cargo operations,” he said in an interview with Reuters news agency.
The airlines is the largest cargo network operator in Africa with several plans including 10 B777 cargo planes.
“We are using them all over the world. They are working 24/7,” Tewolde said.
Across Africa, several airlines have been forced to cancel or temporarily suspend multiple flights as they struggle to cope with falling demand following the spread of coronavirus.
International Air Transport Association (IATA) revealed, as of March 11, African airlines have recorded a loss of up to 4.4 billion US dollars in revenue since the virus surfaced.
It also said passenger demand for Africa has reduced significantly with reports saying international bookings went down by 20% in March and April, while domestic bookings have fallen by about 15% in March and 25% in April.
Ethiopian is among the most affected African airlines. “In the last two months… we have lost revenue of 190 million US dollars,” Tewolde said.
Experts say, in Africa, the airline industry was struggling even before the coronavirus crisis, with almost all airlines in Sub-Saharan Africa are already bankrupt including South African Airways.
Ethiopian CEO said the coming few months would even be critical for many African airlines’ survival.
“In the coming two or more months, we will see a lot of airlines causalities and that is very, very sad,” Tewolde said.