Addis Ababa Bole International Airport (ADD)

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Ethiopian Airlines’ success is based on the Airbus A350 “Preighter” aircraft

Ethiopian Airlines' success is based on the Airbus A350 "Preighter" aircraft.

Since the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic, the East African airline has continued to fly and generate new business, and the A350-900 is a part of that success.

According to aviation industry estimates, 60 percent of the world’s fleet was grounded in 2020 owing to the consequences of the Covid-19 epidemic on air transport. The impact of the epidemic became apparent in March 2020, when the number of flights fell precipitously as a direct result of a decline in customer demand.

The majority of companies reported enormous financial losses, making 2020 the most financially disastrous year in the aviation industry’s history. Ethiopian Airlines was one of the few airlines that remained “cash positive” at this time.

Ethiopian began operating its first cargo-only flight aboard a passenger aircraft in March 2020. The Addis Ababa-based carrier made the critical choice to convert a portion of its fleet to carry cargo rather than passengers for the time being. Since then, the company has increased its cargo operations capacity.

Ethiopian was able to handle the growing freight demand because to its amazing adaptability at all levels of the firm. Tons of masks and medical products, as well as industrial products and goods like mobile phones, IT equipment, and apparel, were transported by its “preighters” — passenger planes with cargo in the cabin.

The company stated in a recent message that it had “executed 5,645 cargo flights on passenger planes and moved more than 121,750 tonnes of goods over its broad global network.” Between March 25, 2020, and March 25, 2021, the flights brought enormous value to the total of 33,182 flights and 735,869 tonnes of cargo transported.”

Ethiopian employed its full A350-900 aircraft for freight operations, which is unsurprising. Seven of the company’s 16 extra-wide-body planes have been converted to freighters, with all economy seats removed. The remaining nine seats are used for people or luggage loaded on economy seats. As a result, all Ethiopian A350-900s were able to continue flying throughout this time.

The East African carrier has reaped the full benefits of the Airbus aircraft’s outstanding ability to fly with a 99.5 percent operational reliability. The A350-900 is a really cutting-edge aircraft, with advancements in flight controls, systems, and wing design. These advancements have a substantial impact on operations, maintenance, and efficiency, implying that the airplane burns less fuel, saving money and lowering its environmental impact. The aircraft’s cost per seat is the lowest in its class.

The A350 reaches new heights in terms of efficiency and durability while also proving to be extremely adaptable. “The A350 interior layout is built on the principle of “simplicity by design,” with space efficiency onboard being a fundamental factor,” says Mikail Houari, President Airbus Africa Middle East. “The 221-inch cross-section, straight sidewalls from floor to ceiling, unrivaled ceiling height, and minimized tapering provide unrivaled parcel loading space. The entirely flat, horizontal floor and recessed rails, which were originally designed to improve passenger comfort, are especially useful when the aircraft is in cargo configuration.”

The A350-900 has been critical in the airline’s effort to weather the storm for all of these reasons. “Please accept my heartfelt congratulations on Ethiopian Airlines’ outstanding performance throughout this historic pandemic. Let me also express my delight in seeing the A350 play such an important role in this success,” Mikail says.

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