After exceeding its profit targets, Ethiopian Airlines is hoping to nearly double its fleet and open new routes, looking at new destinations in Asia and Europe. Grace Pascoe reports on the company's expansion plans.
Profits surge at Ethiopian Airlines, thanks to a growing customer base. The state-owned carrier already fly more global routes than any other African airline. And now that it's beaten profit targets for 2014/15, with revenue of around 2.4 billion U.S. dollars, it wants to expand further, and is looking east. CEO Tewolde Gebremariam. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, TEWOLDE GEBREMARIAM, SAYING: "We are studying Jakarta, Indonesia and Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam and more points in India and of course more points in China." Non-African carriers now account for 80 percent of travel between Africa and the rest of the world, up from 40 percent in the 1980s. But that's a figure the company hopes over time, will change. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, TEWOLDE GEBREMARIAM, SAYING: "The continent in general is still underserved and the continent's market share is skewed towards non African carriers. So Ethiopian Airlines strongly believes that Africa should have a very strong aviation sector, indigenous carriers, indigenous airlines, owned and managed by Africans." But his bold vision could be threatened by uncertainty surrounding an important source of funding. The fate of the U.S. Export Import Bank which lends to Ethiopian Airlines lenders, is uncertain - after its charter expired back in June. Tewolde wants it to reopen soon, a point he pressed President Obama on during his recent visit.