Sunday, June 12, 2011

ASKY Airlines eyes long-haul service

Ethiopian Airlines said that Lome-based ASKY Airlines, in which it now holds a 40% stake, is preparing to start long-haul operations.

"This is the next step, routes to Europe and to Johannesburg," Ethiopian CEO Tewolde Gebremariam told ATW on the sidelines of the IATA AGM in Singapore last week. "Maybe [ASKY] will get a 767 for these new operations … We are very close to" formally announcing the launch of long-haul ASKY services. ASKY operates three 737-700s and one Bombardier Q400.

Though ASKY is looking to spread its reach, Gebremariam noted that competition on routes between Africa and other world regions is fierce. International routes to/from Africa "have become overcrowded with many foreign airlines like Emirates or SkyTeam member carriers" attempting to gain market share. "Inner-African routes are still better business," he added.

ET and future Star Alliance partners Egyptair and South African Airways are evaluating whether to establish a carrier in Central Africa, Gebremariam said. There are six potential countries where the carrier would be based, he explained. "With our membership in Star, the alliance will become the dominant player in Africa before SkyTeam and Emirates," he predicted.

Regarding ET's network, the carrier will launch its second North American destination when it starts Addis Ababa-Toronto Pearson flights in December. Currently it serves Washington Dulles daily from Addis Ababa using a Boeing 777-200LR. The launch of ADD–Damascus service has been postponed until further notice owing to the unrest in Syria.

ET is expecting the delivery of two new 777 freighters on lease from GECAS by the end of 2012. Gebremariam noted that "15% of our business comes from cargo." He added that the carrier's passenger fleet modernization is proceeding smoothly. "Two of 10 new 737NGs [on order] just arrived and we have 12 A350s and 10 787s on order. The first 787 should be delivered in January [2012 and ET expects] to bring a total of four 787s into service next year."

ET currently operates 11 767-300s, with eight of the type slated for retirement by 2016. It also operates four777-200LRs, eight 757-200ERs, five 737-700s, five 737-800s and eight Bombardier Q400s.

(Kurt Hofmann - ATWOnline News)

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