Ethiopian Airlines, Africa’s airline juggernaut.

Travel in Africa is not easy but thanks to Ethiopian Airlines they have made it available and accessible. It is a pain moving from one country in Africa to another especially if you are crossing regions but when you ask -around who takes you there chances are its Ethiopian Airlines.

While the journey may take you long because of connections and waiting hours you are sure to get there. This has been possible through the marketing genius that Ethiopian has employed. They do retail and wholesale at the same time on the same flights to maximize their revenues and passenger traffic. They go to different capitals in Africa to deliver and collect passengers.

When they collect they are unlikely to deliver that passenger directly to final destination. The passenger is taken to Addis Ababa where he is aggregated with others from different places and then delivered to a final destination.

Ethiopia comes to Entebbe three times a day competing with Kenya Airways which comes four times a day. Unlike Kenya airways, it is usually a very small number picked from Entebbe that terminate to Addis. Most of them are travelling to another destination. It is possible therefore that in terms of passenger value, the Ethiopian passengers from Uganda give more value to the airline than it does for Kenya airways. If you are travelling to Harare or Zambia from Entebbe, you either travel at 6pm, sleep in Addis and join the flight at 9am or you travel at 1am through Kigali and Addis and join the in Addis at 9am. The challenge has been the time you take, if you leave your home at 9pm to join the flight at 1am, you will reach Harare or Zambia possibly at 4pm or 5pm. This is more than 12 hours for a 3hour journey. But that is the challenge in Africa. the connections are so poor largely because we are all poor countries who do not trade with one another. But for Ethiopian airways, they exploit this poverty to make the money the 787dreamnliner that goes to Lusaka through Harare goes full. It collects people from the different parts of the world, aggregates them and flys them. This is a marketing genius I was talking about.

According to the CEO, Ethiopian is planning to do the same thing to link southern America to Asia through the main hub in Addis and minor hub in Togo. Ethiopian Airlines was established in 1946  and it survived the communism that hit Ethiopia in the 1970s and 80s. It was and continues to be the flagship business in Ethiopia. It is probably one of the biggest airlines in Africa, it has 64 passenger planes including 13 dream liners. These are some of the most modern airlines available on the market. It has 9 cargo planes and has over 20 planes on order. It flys to over 85 destinations in the world 52 iof which are in Africa, 13 in Europe and the Americas, 19 of which in the Middle East and Asia. It flys to 17 local destinations. I always share my frustrations with Uganda airlines. Having been the chairman of the board and having put the last nail in the coffin of Uganda airlines, when I heard people say we should revive Uganda airlines just for its sake, it is just they do not know what it takes to build an airline. Addis has invested in this airline and it is ripping the fruits of that investment. Uganda should go into cargo before they think about passenger aircraft. Ethiopia has no local passenger but it has ingeniously evolved the market that is profitable. While Ethiopia airline sis running this wonderful airline, it can do better. For these hundreds of passengers that wait at Addis airport, there is unfortunately no internet. The duty free shops are poorly managed. There is a language problem. If you are bringing people from different parts of the world, atleast speak English properly. Have some French. Possibly Arabic. The customer service is terrible. I was trying to have a cup of tea and this lady rudely told me, it was dinner time and I couldn’t have tea. It took me time to understand her because she said it in a language I did not understand. Lastly there is need to improve the ambience in the waiting lounges.

You have a wonderful connection, while it takes time to deliver people where they want to go, but style up on customer service. Do not take them for granted. If it is possible that if they had an alternative because of customer service, they would go elsewhere.

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