Ethiopian confirms Eritrean Airlines talks

Ethiopian Airlines (ET, Addis Ababa) chief executive Tewolde GebreMariam has confirmed the carrier is in talks with Eritrean Airlines (B8, Asmara) over a potential investment.

Speaking to Reuters after this week’s inaugural Addis Ababa-Asmara service, Gebremariam said a study will be conducted to determine the size of the stake to be acquired. Earlier unconfirmed reports had pointed to a 20% equity shareholding.

Ethiopian stands to benefit greatly from the recent detente between Ethiopia and Eritrea given the large Eritrean diaspora resident in Europe and North America. At present, diasporans using Emirates/flydubai, Turkish Airlines or EgyptAir to reach Eritrea can do so only up to Asmara as the rest of Eritrea does not see any scheduled international flights. In addition, Eritrean Airlines has no interline agreements with any of the aforementioned carriers.

« We plan (also) to fly to Massawa and Assab, » Gebremariam added. « We have not assessed the market (in the two towns), so we will send market research people. »

In an added benefit to Ethiopian Airlines, the partial reopening on July 13 of Eritrean airspace to Ethiopian traffic has allowed the carrier to cut down flying times on services to Saudi Arabia. Flightradar24 ADS-B data shows the first flight to transit Eritrean airspace – ET412 Addis Ababa-Riyadh – took place on Wednesday, July 18. However, not all services bound for the Middle East can yet use the recently reopened air corridor with those to the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait still relying on Somali sovereign airspace.

“There are about five air routes which were closed for the last twenty years, » the Director-General of the Ethiopian Civil Aviation Authority, Colonel Wossenyeleh Hunegnaw, told The Reporter. « For the time being, we have opened the air route that starts from Kenya passes through Addis Ababa-Makale to Asmara. The remaining air routes will be opened shortly after the necessary preparation works are done. » (Source: ch-aviation, photo: Eritrean Airlines)

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