Skip to content

Ethiopian Airlines is Refitting its Fleet with Seats as Passenger Demand Returns

During the depths of the pandemic, Ethiopian converted four Boeing 777-200s into freighters — known since the pandemic began as “preighters” — to fly personal protective equipment, and later, vaccines between China and Africa and onto Brazil. These preighters joined the carrier’s 10 777-200Fs and three Boeing 737-800Fs. But with passenger demand returning, Ethiopian has re-converted three of the planes back to passenger operations, with the fourth to follow in the next few weeks, said Nigusu Worku, Ethiopian’s regional director for North America. Passenger traffic is back to about 65 percent of 2019 levels and, based on advance bookings, Ethiopian expects traffic to be about 80 percent of 2019 levels by the end of the year. Business travel and tourism has all but dried up but visiting friends and relatives — particularly by the African diaspora in North America and Europe — has remained strong. About 65 percent of the carrier’s traffic connects over Addis Ababa to other points in sub-Saharan Africa, with the Ethiopian capital being the final destination for the balance, Worku said. When the pandemic first began, Ethiopian reduced frequencies to most of its destinations, halting flights only to those countries that had banned air travel. But now, most of the network’s pre-pandemic frequencies have been restored, Worku said. Charter and repatriation flights have all but stopped, and the carrier is focused on bringing its pre-pandemic capacity back by year’s end.