Ethiopia’s flag carrier Ethiopian Airlines is experiencing changes in its leadership as the Chief Executive Officer Tweolde Gebremariam stepped down earlier this week due to ill-health. 

Africa’s leading carrier set for change

Gebremariam is one of the leading figures in African aviation. While CEO, he expanded Ethiopian Airlines at an extraordinary rate – it became an international heavyweight as its size and fleet tripled under Gebremariam’s management. His resignation, while may come as a shock to some, is motivated by a desire to focus on his health as he receives treatment for an undiagnosed illness or condition. 

In a letter addressed to Ethiopian Airlines’ staff members, the CEO spoke of how the airline has made history together in the last decade, a comment that is widely accepted by the aviation industry. 

Ethiopian Airlines, with Gebremariam as CEO from 2011, grew from 33 aeroplanes to 130 and from 3 million passengers to 12 million pre-pandemic. The airline grew from a $1 billion annual turnover to an impressive $4.5 billion. 

His time at the company also led to the consequential boost of growth within Ethiopia’s air transport sector. In 2019, Ethiopia’s aviation industry contributed a staggering $4.2 billion to the GDP of the country.

In June of last year, Ethiopian Airlines celebrated 75 years of Excellence.

Ethiopia Airlines CEO Tweolde Gebremariam
Gebremariam at the Africa CEO Forum in 2019, where the airline won an award | © REUTERS/Jean Bizimana

The airline faced its challenges under the leaving CEO too, the most devastating one being the Ethiopian Airlines plane crash in 2019 that killed all 157 passengers on board. The airline and their pilots were not at fault, as it was found that the crash was primarily due to an issue with the MCAS system on the Boeing 737-Max in use. 

Ethiopian Airlines’ board has appointed Mesfin Tasew as the new CEO. Tasew is no stranger to the aviation industry as he is the current managing director of Togo-based airline Asky. 

Tasew, when speaking about his new role as CEO, spoke of the challenging times ahead for the African aviation industry in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. 

Because of the war in Europe a lot of things have changed, fuel price has shot up, not only price going up the availability of fuel in many areas is becoming a problem, that is a new problem, price plus lack of fuel at many of our stations at times even in Addis Ababa, so that is going to be really a challenge.

Helping to boost the African aviation industry 

In looking to the future, Ethiopian Airlines is positive, stating that they still believe they can offer help to South Africa’s flag carrier South African Airways. 

South African Airways
South African Airways is one of the leading and most experienced carriers in Africa | © Emmanuel Croset/AFP

This echoes the beliefs held by Gebremariam while he was CEO, as he believed that more successful African airlines are needed in the sky to boost the African aviation industry beyond only enjoying 20% of the global share. 

Girma Wake, an Ethiopian Airlines Board Chairperson, spoke positively of South African Airlines:

We believe South Africa Airways, burying other political interference and all other things would be in a position to really compete on an international market. I for one believe it’s one of the very good airlines in Africa.

Wake continued, stating that Ethiopian Airlines management will be encouraged to cooperate with South African Airways and offer beneficial help. 

What do you think? Let us know in the comments. 

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