Airbus A350 to provide Ethiopian with extra cargo capacity

Ethiopian Airlines Airbus A350 at Heathrow Airport

Ethiopian Airlines will receive up to another five tonnes of capacity by upgrading London – Addis Ababa services to an Airbus A350, director global cargo sales & services, Berhanu Kassa tells Air Cargo Week (ACW).

Speaking to ACW in Addis Ababa following the inaugural A350 flight between Heathrow Airport and Bole Addis Ababa International Airport, Kassa says the main improvement the new aircraft will bring is increased capacity. Ethiopian Airlines is the first African operator of an A350 and it flew from London to Addis Ababa on 14 August.

He says though the decision to use the A350 on the Heathrow route was mainly driven by the passenger side, cargo will also benefit. “It can give a capacity of 20 tonnes for freight, from Addis we have perishable products like flowers, vegetables and products of that nature. Up to now, the average traffic is not more than 15 tonnes so this aircraft can give us an additional five tonnes.”

The extra capacity is also an upgrade for exports from the UK to Ethiopia and beyond into other African countries. In addition to increasing the number of passenger aircraft with bellyhold capacity, Ethiopian Airlines will increase the number of Boeing 777 Freighters to eight as well as adding a Boeing 737 and one Boeing 767 to its fleet. Kassa says the 767 is expected to have a capacity of 55 tonnes and the 737 will carry 20 tonnes.

He says: “By having these two aircraft we can cover medium range destinations with the 767 and short haul one to two hours we are going to use the 737.”

The nature of business in cities nearby such as Juba, Kigali and Nairobi means they do not have large volumes but there is consistent traffic to be catered for. Kassa says: “In order to provide competitive services we prefer to have the 737 so we can immediately transfer the cargo to destinations within one hour and 30 minutes.”

Over the coming years, intra-African cargo will grow as economies see growth but Kassa says this requires African skies to open for African carriers Yamoussoukro Declaration.

“All African countries have agreed to open their skies to any African operator but this declaration has not been complied with well so any African carrier operating to another African country must have a bilateral agreement and has to file for an operating permit, which is subject to approval.”

Connecting Africa with the world is the main aim, but traffic has been negatively impacted by economic slowdown in major African countries, particularly oil producers hitting their imports: “This is the situation, I’m sure this situation will change and their economies will pick up and with that in mind Ethiopian Airlines will take the maximum share of freight movement into Africa from Europe and vice versa.”