Photograph — Air Cargo News

Africa’s leading carrier, Ethiopian Airlines has announced a major restructuring of its United States network. It includes opening a new destination, adding frequencies and shifting gateways by the summer of 2019, with a view to offer passengers travelling between Africa and the U.S. the best possible connectivity and the shortest routes.

Coming barely two months after Kenya Airways started its daily direct flights to JFK Airport, and a few months before Rwandan flag carrier RwandAir launches its flights, the move intensifies competition for the U.S. market among the Eastern African community. It also deals a blow to the region’s other airlines, which are also looking to serve the same market.

Group CEO of Ethiopian Airlines, Tewolde GebreMariam said the new move is informed by the fact that “the U.S. is among the airline’s most important markets due to the presence of a large African community and growing business and tourism ties with Africa.”

“Our new route structure with additional frequencies to multiple gateways and the opening of new route to Houston are aimed at responding to the market demand and availing best possible connectivity to over 60 African destinations,” he added.

Major routes reforms

The airline operator plans to introduce flights to the John F Kennedy International Airport in New York three times a week, adding to its flights to the city’s Newark International Airport.

Out of its planned daily flights to New York, four will be through Lomé, Togo, to Newark Airport and three via Abidjan, Ivory Coast, to JFK, starting June. The introduction of flights to JFK is seen as a bid to protect its U.S. market while offering alternative connections.

Accordingly, Washington D.C. flights will be increased from seven flights to ten weekly flights, with the additional three flights departing Addis Ababa in the morning via Abidjan to arrive in the evening. The current three weekly flights to Chicago will be increased to five.

There will also be a new gateway, Houston, replacing Los Angeles, and will be served three times per week via West Africa. The new Houston flights will be the only connection between Houston and Africa and this is aimed at taking advantage of the large African community in the city, its concentration of oil companies and others doing business on the continent.

“In line with our roadmap, we will keep on expanding our U.S. and African network to facilitate people-to-people ties and the flow of investment, trade and tourism,” Tewolde said.

Last week, the national carrier also announced complimentary city tour package for its global passengers starting January 25. This offers travellers six to eight hours’ time in Addis Ababa, a journey through the city’s National Museum, a taste of Ethiopian coffee and souvenir shopping. It also opened a new 373-room Skylight Hotel, the largest in Ethiopia, and a new passenger terminal.

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