As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to cripple major carriers around the world, Ethiopian Airlines has pivoted to a vital income stream – the transportation of cargo. The decision, as per the company, has helped it to avert financial ruin by maintaining half of its income while 90 per cent of the passenger fleet is grounded.
Here is a video circulating on Chinese social media of the burning @flyethiopian 777F at Shanghai Pudong Airport. It's most definitely a hull loss at this point. #BreakingNews #AvGeek pic.twitter.com/FN98d6QNrJ— FATIII Aviation (@FATIIIAviation) July 22, 2020
Going from growth mode to survival mode, the airline built on its existing cargo fleet of 10 Boeing 777s and two Boeing 737 by converting 25 passenger aircraft to cargo flights. Since the shift, Ethiopian Airlines has shipped cargo to 70 destinations as against the 10 at the start of the pandemic.
Airfreight rates saw a surge in price during the crisis and have dropped off as capacity returns, but remain about 40-50% above their usual levels. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) speculates that cargo will contribute 26 per cent of airline industry revenue in 2020, up from 12 per cent in 2019.
The airline has helped to shuttle Covid-19 equipment throughout Africa and beyond in Europe, the US and South America. All three shipments of healthcare equipment donated by Chinese billionaire Jack Ma passed through Addis Ababa and were distributed to 52 African countries.