Ethiopia

Air Transport

Distance, terrain, and an underdeveloped road system made air transport an important part of Ethiopia’s transportation network. Ethiopian Airlines (EAL), a government-owned corporation that began operations in l946, provided domestic and international air service. The airline served some forty-five cities and towns in Ethiopia and operated international flights that, in early 1991, included service to twenty-one cities in eighteen African countries; to western European destinations such as London, Paris, Frankfurt, Rome, and Athens; and to India and China. Many international and several regional airlines also provided regular service between Ethiopia and other countries.

International airports were located at Addis Ababa, Asmera, and Dire Dawa. Addis Ababa’s Bole International Airport served more than l95,000 passengers in EFY l986/87, while the Asmera and Dire Dawa airports handled l08,000 and 8l,000 passengers, respectively, during the same period. Bole International Airport and the airport at Asmera were capable of handling larger aircraft, such as the Boeing 747.

EAL had an excellent reputation because of its safety record. It was also one of the few profitable African airlines. EAL also had provided training and maintenance services to more than a dozen other African and Middle Eastern airlines. In late 1986, EAL assembled the first agro-aircraft to support the nation’s agricultural development and the agro-aviational needs of other African countries. New facilities included an expanded catering network, a gas production plant, and base maintenance shops for ground equipment. EAL also had an ongoing program to automate airline activities such as maintenance and engineering, ticket accounting, and crew and corporate data management.

Although it refrained from interfering in EAL operations, the Mengistu government opposed the airline’s plans to expand into areas such as hotel construction and management, tourism, and catering, which the government reserved for state corporations, which operated at a loss. In June 1989, EAL announced plans to spend US$l.2 billion on new aircraft; in early 1991, EAL received Western credits to acquire five new Boeing 757s and to refinance two Boeing 767s.

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