Ethiopia has overtaken Dubai as a conduit for long-haul passengers to Africa, Travel consultancy Forward Keys said on Wednesday.
According to the agency, the record highlights the success of the state airline’s expansion drive and the reforms of its new Prime Minister. Forward Keys arrived at the conclusion after analysing data from travel booking systems that recorded 17 million flight bookings a day.
It found out that the number of long-haul transfers to sub-Saharan Africa via Addis Ababa jumped by 85 per cent from 2013 to 2017.
Transfers via Dubai over the same period rose by 31 per cent.
So far this year, Addis Ababa’s growth is 18 per cent, versus three per cent for Dubai.
ForwardKeys also attributed the recent jump in bookings via Addis Ababa in part to a positive international response to the broad reforms introduced by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.
It cited two changes in particular: a move to allow visitors to apply for visas online, and Abiy’s pledge to open Ethiopia’s largely state-controlled economy to foreign investment.
Ahmed came to power in April and has upended politics in the Horn of Africa country of around 105 million people.
Dubai has long been a major global air travel hub because it is the base of Gulf carrier, Emirates.
Given the lack of an “open skies” deal smoothing flights across Africa, many passengers travelling between one part of the continent and another, or from Asia or Europe to Africa, must often transit through Dubai.
Addis Ababa airport had increased the number of international transfer passengers to sub-Saharan Africa for five years in a row.
In 2018, the airport surpassed Dubai, one of the world’s busiest airports, as the transfer hub for long-haul travel to the region.
Ethiopian Airlines, the country’s most successful state company, is accelerating a 15-year strategy, it launched in 2010, to win back market share on routes to and from Africa.
The route used to be dominated by Turkish Airlines and Emirates.
It is also weaving a patchwork of new African routes to rapidly expanding and lucrative Asian markets.
After the Ethiopian president made peace with Eritrea to end a two-decade state of war, Ethiopian resumed flights to its neighbour in July.
This month, it re-launched flights to Somalia’s capital after four decades.