Africa’s leading carrier, Ethiopian Airlines, has upped the stakes in battle for the US market , with an announcement this week that it will introduce three-times-a-week flights to the John F Kennedy International Airport in New York, adding to its flights to the city’s Newark International Airport.
The announcement may not come as good news to the region’s other airlines, which are also looking to serve the same market.
Ethiopian said it was restructuring its network, opening new destinations, adding frequencies and shifting gateways as it seeks to offer passengers travelling between Africa and the US the best possible connectivity and the shortest routes.
This comes three months after Kenya Airways started its daily direct flights to JFK Airport, and a few months before Rwandan flag carrier RwandAir launches its flights.
The New York route for KQ has also come with its own set of challenges, which saw it announce in December its intention to scale down to five flights a week, starting mid January, a decision that was attributed to low demand during the winter season. The airline also rescheduled flights for the period covering November 2018 to March this year.
The Addis Ababa-based carrier, like Kenya Airways, is deploying the Boeing 787 Dreamliner to its US routes. But its approach is different.
From its planned daily flights to New York, four will be via Lomé, Togo, to Newark Airport and three via Abidjan, Ivory Coast, to JFK, starting June.
The introduction of flights to JFK will be seen as a bid to protect its US market while offering alternative connections.
Ethiopian will also increase its Washington DC flights from the current daily to 10 flights a week, with the additional three flights departing Addis Ababa in the morning via Abidjan to arrive in Washington DC in the evening. The airline also plans to increase the current three flights per week to five.
But the airline has cancelled its Los Angeles frequency, opting for a new gateway — Houston — to take advantage of the large African community in the city, its concentration of oil companies and others doing business on the continent. This route will be served three times a week via West Africa.
ET Holidays, the tour operator wing of Ethiopian Airlines has also started a new complimentary city tour package that takes transiting passengers with six to eight hours’ time to be spent in Addis Ababa on a journey through the national museum.
The journey is accompanied with a taste of Ethiopian coffee and souvenir shopping at affordable prices and helps them experience the unique flavours of the political capital of Africa during their brief stay.
Group CEO of Ethiopian Airlines, Tewolde GebreMariam, said “as we continue to discover and deliver the best for our customers, we are pleased to come up with complimentary offerings to our global transiting passengers and make them savour every moment and feel the real taste of Addis Ababa during their brief stay.”