Ethiopian Airlines carried a record 12.1 million passengers in the 2018/19 fiscal year ending June 2019 despite ongoing issues with the Boeing 737 Max.
Group chief executive Tewolde Gebremariam said passenger numbers grew by 14% during the period, which saw the introduction of 18 new aircraft and six new international destinations: Asmara, Istanbul, Manchester, Mogadishu, Moscow and Jakarta.
However, he added the airline was still dealing with the ongoing loss of the 737 Maxs, which were grounded following two fatal crashes of the aircraft, one of which was Ethiopian’s. The airline currently has four of the aircraft grounded, with a further 30 on order.
Gebremariam said: “It is affecting our growth for the time being; strategically we believe we should be fine because we will fly the Max when it is ready but in a worst case scenario we’ll have to replace it with similar capacity aircraft.”
He added the record passenger numbers meant the airline grew operating revenue by 25% year-on-year to Ethiopian birr 112 billion with net profit at Ethiopian birr 5.3 billion.
Gebremariam added the airline is expecting new growth to emerge from its new routes from Addis Ababa to Athens and Houston, both of which launch in December.
He also said the airline is currently considering a new route to Chennai following the success of a recent launch of a route to Bengaluru in October.
Gebremariam said: “The business community in Bengaluru is very excited - it is a very interesting route as it is the Silicon Valley of India.”
Whatever other new destinations the airline is considering introducing, he added they would need to fit into the airline’s overarching strategy.
“70% of our traffic is connecting,” said Gebremariam. “We are building on that – we have routes from Addis into Indian, China, South America and Europe and we want to fully utilise this opportunity.”