Ethiopian Airlines plans to revive the Code Share Agreement with the Tata Group’s Air India, according to a senior official of the African airline. “The agreement was suspended just before the start of the Covid pandemic due to operational difficulties. However, we plan to revive it,” its Chief Commercial Officer Lemma Yadecha Gudeta told BusinessLine.

“We are holding discussions with officials of Air India and reviving the agreement will not be a problem. We have been partners for so long and it is just a matter of readjusting the technical part of the Code Share,” he said.

“I met Air India officials at the recently held IATA Annual General Meeting in Doha. They were positive to continue the agreement. It is just a matter of activation on the system, otherwise all the paper works are there already,” he added.

Air India and Ethiopian Airlines have had an agreement since 2011. Such an agreement enables customers to enjoy better connectivity options and significantly enhances investment and commercial ties.

Gudeta said he would be happy to be partners with other Indian airlines, including SpiceJet and Indigo. India is a vast country and Ethiopian Airlines, cannot fly to each city. “We do feed and de-feed. We feed them with passengers in Delhi, Bengaluru, Mumbai and Chennai, and they feed us in our flights to connect beyond Addis Ababa where we fly,” he said.

In the airline industry, it is impossible to cover all the cities in each country and we need to work with local airlines in partnership, he said. “We are interested to work with any interested party in India,” he added.

Completed 50 years

Ethiopian Airlines, owned 100 per cent by the Ethiopian government, started its service to India with a debut flight to Delhi in 1966 - just 20 years after the airline was founded. Recently, it marked its 50th anniversary of uninterrupted service to Mumbai. He said that India remained very supportive to the Ethiopian government during the hard times.

Profitability

India has always been a profitable station for the airline. The service to Bengaluru was started just before the onset of the pandemic. However, Mumbai and Delhi are great success stories, he said.

When asked which city is next after the launch of the direct passenger flight to Chennai from Addis Ababa on Sunday, Gudeta said, “we would be happy to fly to any city in India but depends on the permission from the Civil Aviation Ministry. We are eying Hyderabad as a priority, and then Ahmedabad,” he added.

Slots

“We have utilised all the slots at the airports that have been granted by the aviation authorities. We are trying to have a meeting with the Civil Aviation Ministry Minister for granting more slots. We can have as many slots as allotted as India is very strong, and the Indian subcontinent is very strong.” he said.

Cargo

The airline has had cargo operations in India for over a decade with dedicated freighters. During the pandemic, the airline flew a lot of pharma products from Chennai, Delhi, Bengaluru and Mumbai. However, the volume was large from Chennai, he said.

The airline operates 11 dedicated freighters per week from Addis Ababa to Chennai, Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru and Ahmedabad. India is a production hub and the airline carries pharmaceutical items and manufacturing machinery, he said.

On severe competition from Gulf airlines to carry passengers from/to India to the US and Europe, Gudeta said , “We welcome competition, and it help us to grow. We are happy to compete. We give value for money. From Chennai we will offer the fastest time to reach US destinations like Washington or New York or to South American destinations like Sao Paulo,” he said.

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