Connecting Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa and Bengaluru with a direct flight, Ethiopian Airlines (EA) is eyeing the burgeoning south Indian market to fly more people to and from Africa and beyond, a top official said on Monday.
“A robust 20 per cent annual growth over the couple of years to and from India has made us double our daily flights to Mumbai and Delhi and foray into Bengaluru to connect south India with Ethiopia, Africa and other countries through Addis Ababa,” EA Chief Executive Tewolde GebreMariam told IANS here in an interview.
Under a code-sharing agreement with the state-run Air India, Bengaluru is EA’s third destination in the sub-continent to operate direct service to Addis Ababa and provide connecting flights to other African cities and Europe and Americas.
“Direct flights to Addis Ababa and connecting flights to 62 cities, including national capitals in Africa and 125 destinations the world over have made our airline the most preferred by passengers and cargo operators to and from India,” asserted GereMariam.
With 15-20 per cent of the traffic to and from Mumbai and New Delhi generating from south India, the airline has decided to operate a direct service to Bengaluru four times a week, with connecting flights in Air India to other southern cities to reduce air travel.
“We hope to soon operate a daily service between Bengaluru and Addis Ababa and connect Chennai and Hyderabad as next two destinations in south India to fly more people directly and minimise their travel time,” noted GereMariam.
With Air India discontinuing its service to Addis Ababa for operational reasons years ago, EA has a virtual monopoly on the inbound and outbound traffic between Addis Ababa and Mumbai/Delhi, which will extend to Bengaluru from this week with competition from Turkish and Qatar airlines though via Istanbul or Doha as one-stop over.
“With direct and connecting flights to and from Addis Ababa to cities in Africa and beyond, we have about 60 per cent of our passengers who are outbound to Europe, Americas and the Gulf or West Asia, while the remaining 40 per cent fly in Ethiopia or across Africa,” GebreMariam said on the occasion.
The CEO and other executives of the airline flew into Bengaluru earlier in the day from Addis Ababa with 110 passengers on the maiden service to south India in Boeing 737. The first flight to Addis Ababa and other connecting destinations from Bengaluru is scheduled to take off in the wee hours of Tuesday.
The airline operates Airbus A350 on the Delhi and Mumbai routes, as it has a huge capacity to fly about 350 passengers at a time.
“The passengers profile varies as each flight has a fair mix of people who are of Indian-origin or born to Indian parents living in Ethiopia and other African countries in hundreds as part of their Diaspora,” pointed out the CEO.
The airline also caters to hundreds of students from Ethiopia and other African countries studying in Bengaluru and other cities/towns in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana who are our regular fliers,” pointed out the CEO.
“Though business travellers contribute to two-thirds of our traffic to and from India and one-third of them to leisure, we are pitching and promoting India, especially Bengaluru as a wellness destination and gateway to other southern cities and tourist spots, including heritage sites in all the five southern states,” added GebreMariam.
The airline has one of the youngest fleet (121) of modern Boeing, Airbus and Bombardier aircraft, with less than 5 years of age and 52 more aircraft on order for delivery.
With a dynamic airfare, the airline has priced a round trip between Bengaluru and Addis Ababa at Rs 55,000 with 45-40 per cent discount as initial or promotional offer and ‘buy 1 ticket and get 1 ticket’ festival offer for Diwali till October 31.
“We provide visa on arrival at Addis Ababa or e-visa to Ethiopia for tourists or visitors from India,” added GebreMariam.