Quick adaptation has enabled Ethiopian Airlines to pull through tough COVID-19 restrictions and “saved the airline,” its CEO said.
CEO Tewolde GebreMariam said the airline maximized freight operations due to air travel restrictions. Despite losing $1 billion and having 850 of its employees contract COVID-19, the company reported a $44 million profit for the first half of 2020 and has not defaulted on its loan repayments, the CEO said.
The company also has avoided laying off full-time employees or seeking debt restructuring, Tewolde said.
The airline, which is the largest in Africa, responded to a 90% drop in international passenger traffic by repurposing 45 passenger jets to build out its cargo fleet. It stripped the seats from its passenger planes to make way for cargo. This worked for the airline because air freight demand surged.
“I would say that those actions have saved the airline,” Tewolde said. “We were very quick, very fast, flexible and agile to move our forces, resources and everything to cargo.”