Starting next week, Africa’s largest aviation group and the most successful airline will commence tri-weekly flights to John F. Kennedy Airport in New York, America’s sixth busiest airport. This destination will, in addition to its quad-weekly service to Newark, make Ethiopian Airlines a daily operator to New York. JFK becomes the airline’s fifth US destination after Los Angeles, Washington, Chicago, and Newark.

It gives me a great pleasure to launch flights to John F. Kennedy Airport, our second station in New York in addition to Newark, connecting North America’s gateway with our extended network of more than 120 destinations globally. The U.S. is one of our most important markets owing to the presence of a large African diaspora and the promising multi-faceted relations between Africa and the USA,” said Group CEO of Ethiopian Airlines, Tewolde GebreMariam.

“Hence, the new service is a significant addition to our expanding network in the USA and offers better connectivity for African and US passengers. Moreover, the service catalyzes trade, tourism, investment and people-to-people relations between Africa and the United States. With new JFK flight services, Ethiopian will be serving 24 weekly flights between African and North America.”

Ethiopia Airlines becomes the second East African carrier after Kenyan Airways to land at JFK, and the fifth African carrier behind South African Airways, Maroc Air, Kenyan Airways and EgyptAir. It is a league to which they have always belonged. Thus, following EgyptAir’s recent admittance to DC, will return Ethiopian Airlines to the top of the pile again.

Beforehand, EgyptAir had a firm grip on JFK and Ethiopian Airlines had its hands tight on Washington Dulles, they have now entered each other’s territory, which intensifies competition going forward. Like EgyptAir, Ethiopian will be flying the Dreamliner 787-9 into JFK, with its superior advantage of having a business section that reportedly perfectly replicates Turkish Airlines’. The East African giant’s traffic to Newark and Chicago routes are expected to increase as it plans to cancel its Los Angeles route come summer.

Ethiopia has needed some cheer since the March 10 catastrophe in which 157 lives were lost. Since then, it has held off on the JFK move while it struggled to convince passengers about its safety processes, with CEO GebreMariam telling NBC that his airline “might never fly the MAX 737 again.” But, with this destination, to go with its capture of European cities 19th and 20th (Istanbul and Marseille), the airline will feel its vision of “becoming the most competitive and leading aviation group in Africa” and mission of “providing vital global air connectivity” is back on track.

Meanwhile, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has predicted a sharp fall in profit for African airlines, citing higher fuel prices and weaker global trade, which will shake the global airline industry. IATA said this in its mid-year airline industry economic forecast at its 75th AGM in Seoul, South Korea, estimating airlines will make twenty percent profit less than they did in 2018.

IATA DG, Alexandre de Juniac, also highlighted some important factors, “This will be the 10th consecutive year in the black for the airline industry. But margins are being squeezed by rising costs across the board, including labour, fuel and infrastructure. The weakening of global trade is expected to continue as the US-China trade war intensifies.”

According to IATA, African airlines will lose about $100 million in 2019, noting that profitability for African airlines is undermined by an inability to achieve sufficient load factors. One wonders what Ethiopian Airlines Group CEO, Tewolde GebreMariam who was reappointed into the IATA’s governing body in Seoul, thinks about this prediction.

By Caleb Ajinomoh

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