National Airways acquires five aircraft

To launch domestic, regional flights

One of the indigenous private airlines in Ethiopia, National Airways, has bought five passenger aircraft from the US.

National Airways purchased the aircraft from an American company. The aircraft are Embraer ERJ145 with 50 seats. Four of the aircraft have already arrived Addis Ababa and the fifth one is expected to arrive in the coming few days.

National Airways’ Embraer ERJ145 aircraft

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The private airline which has been providing charter flight services since 2009 is now planning to launch scheduled domestic and regional flights. Company official told The Reporter that the Ethiopian Civil Aviation Authority (ECAA) has approved the airline’s request to operate domestic scheduled service. The airline is planning to start scheduled flight services to Mekelle, Gondar and Bahir Dar. “We are also planning to start scheduled flight services to Hargeisa, Somaliland, Bosaso, Puntland and Mogadishu, Somalia,” the official said.

The Ethiopian Civil Aviation Authority (ECAA) has confirmed to The Reporter that it has licensed National Airways to operate scheduled domestic flight services. “In principle we have permitted them to operate scheduled domestic flight services. But we are still working on the details,” ECAA said.

National Airways stated that ECAA was very cooperative to private airlines. “We acknowledge ECAA’s effort to nurture private operators. The authority is committed towards the development of indigenous private airlines in Ethiopia,” National Airways said.

However, an executive of National Airways said that there is a lot of room for improvement. “The private airlines in other African countries are very strong. They may not have a strong national airline but they have strong private airlines. If you see our neighbor Kenya there are dozens of private airlines that provide scheduled domestic flight services. They also have a vibrant general aviation. They have a dedicated airport for general aviation, Wilson Airport in Nairobi. When you come to Ethiopia you have a very strong national carrier but the general aviation is at its infant stage. Business aviation is non-existent.”

The executive of National Airways told The Reporter that there is a seat limitation that is imposed on private operators. “We are not allowed to operate an aircraft which has more than 50 seats. That is why we acquired an aircraft which has 50 seats. These days because of the increasing price of fuel you cannot be profitable if you operate small aircraft. We have been complaining about the restriction for many years and no one is willing to do anything. What is the rationale behind restricting the type of aircraft private airlines can operate? We should be able to acquire Boeing aircraft with 150-200 seats. Ethiopian Airlines is going to sell shares to foreign companies. So who is it that the government wants to protect?”

The ECAA in collaboration with the Ministry of Transport has drafted a new aviation policy which encourages private airlines. The draft aviation policy has proposed to lift the seat limitation and allow local private airlines to operate scheduled flight services, among other things. It has been more than two years since the draft aviation policy has been submitted to the Council of Ministers for endorsement. However, to date it has not been endorsed.

Director general of ECAA Wossenyeleh Hunegnaw (Col.) told The Reporter that the draft aviation policy is returned to the Ministry of Transport for amendments. “ECAA should re write the draft aviation policy due to a change in policy issues,” Wossenyeleh said.

An executive of National Airways argue that it was time to liberalise the domestic air transport market as the African Union took a bold step to establish a Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM). “African countries have agreed to allow African airlines to freely fly in Africa. So it is a high time for Ethiopia to permit indigenous private airlines to operate scheduled domestic and regional flights,” he said.


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