After decades of dominating the African airspace Ethiopian Airlines has finally overtaken Dubai to emerge as top hub for international transfers to Africa

Ethiopian Airlines, the country’s most successful state company, has overtaken Dubai as a conduit for long-haul passengers to Africa.


Given the lack of an “open skies” deal to smooth flights across Africa, many passengers travelling between one part of the continent and another, or from Asia or Europe to Africa, often have to transit through Dubai first.

But this is changing thanks to an African airline that is rising up to the occasion and saving passenger’s the nightmare of connecting flights.

The Airline, which is also Africa’s most profitable airline is accelerating a 15-year strategy it launched in 2010 to win back market share on routes to and from Africa that are dominated by Turkish Airlines and Emirates.

Travel consultancy ForwardKeys said the Addis Ababa airport had increased the number of international transfer passengers to sub-Saharan Africa for five years in a row, and in 2018 had surpassed Dubai, one of the world’s busiest airports, as the transfer hub for long-haul travel to the region.

According to data from travel booking systems that records 17 million flight bookings a day, ForwardKeys found the number of long-haul transfers to sub-Saharan Africa via Addis Ababa jumped by 85 percent from 2013 to 2017. Transfers via Dubai over the same period rose by 31 percent.

So far this year, Addis Ababa’s growth is 18 percent, versus three percent for Dubai.

ForwardKeys attributed the recent jump in bookings via Addis Ababa in part to a positive international response to the broad reforms introduced by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who came to power in April and has upended politics in the Horn of Africa country of around 105 million people.

It cited two changes in particular: a move to allow visitors to apply for visas online, and Abiy’s pledge to open Ethiopia’s largely state-controlled economy to foreign investment.

Ethiopian Prime Minister has also made peace with its neighbor, Eritrea ending a two decade more and allowing Ethiopian Airlines to resumed flights to Asmara in July.

On November, Ethiopian Airlines also began flights to Somalia’s capital after four decades break.

And the rise of travel via Addis Ababa looks set to continue. International bookings via Ethiopia are up 40 percent year-on-year for November to January 2019, ahead of all other destinations in Africa, ForwardKeys said.

It is also weaving a patchwork of new African routes to rapidly expanding and lucrative Asian markets.


Eyewitness? Submit your stories now via social or: