There’s no doubt that 2020 has been a challenging year for airlines. Most carriers are reporting heavy losses and making tough decisions about their future. Profits are simply out of the question.
However, a handful of carriers have managed to turn a profit this year, despite the downturn, mainly by rapidly shifting their focus when the crisis hit.
Africa’s largest airline, Ethiopian Airlines, has done well through the pandemic. With a combination of cargo and repatriation flights, the airline has covered all its fixed costs and says it has turned a small profit for the fiscal year that ended in July, its CEO told Bloomberg. The exact figure is not yet known.
Ethiopian’s success is similar to Korean and Asiana’s: taking advantage of the drop in cargo capacity. Using its fleet of dedicated freighter aircraft, and a large number of converted passenger planes, Ethiopian has ramped up cargo operations across the globe from its hub in Addis Ababa.
The airline has also been conducting up to 40 charter flights a week during the pandemic, raking in significant revenue.
The restart of commercial operations has seen Ethiopian already reach 40% of pre-pandemic capacity. The carrier has also started adding seats back to its converted-freighters, showing the resurgence of passenger traffic. While the airline has taken a significant revenue hit, it’s the ability to withstand the crisis with no bailout is exemplary and stands apart from other large carriers.
While the current crisis has undoubtedly hurt Ethiopian, it’s future expansion plans remain in place. The airline’s $5bn mega-hub program remains intact as it looks to boost revenues and passenger capacity from Africa in the next decade. The airline is also considering a number of new plane purchases, such as the 777X and A220 for efficient future operations.