Ethiopian Airlines is powering ahead with a plan to expand its fleet and route network after exceeding its profit target for the year 2014/15.
The state-owned carrier is ranked the largest in Africa by revenue and profit by global industry body IATA.
Chief executive Tewolde Gebremariam said the firm had revenue of ETB 49.4 billion birr (USD$ 2.39 billion) in its fiscal year ended July 7, exceeding a target of ETB43 billion birr.
It attributed the growth to a rise in passenger numbers and to expansion of maintenance, catering and aviation training services.
Passenger numbers for the period were not immediately available. Ethiopian flew six million passengers in the prior year, up from 5.22 million in 2012/13.
Net profit for the year ended last month rose to ETB3.5 billion birr for the same period.
“This shows you that we have over grown,” Tewolde said in an interview with Reuters news agency.
Ethiopian Airlines plans to increase revenue to USD$ 10 billion by 2025 by nearly doubling its fleet of 77 aircraft and opening new routes.
It has 50 planes on order, including 14 Airbus A350s and expects to increase its fleet of Boeing 787s to 30 in 10 years’ time, he added.
Tewolde had a word of caution about the ongoing impasse in the United States over the US Export-Import Bank. The 81-year-old bank saw its charter lapse last month after conservatives in the US Congress cast it as a promoter of “crony capitalism” for multinationals such as Boeing and General Electric.
“It is an essential financial instrument for us. We want the US Exim Bank to reopen and that was our main point of discussion with President Obama,” Tewolde said, referring to the US leader’s visit in July.
“We want to continue because that is our main, and perhaps only, means of financing our airplanes and financing our growth in the future.”
The airline has targeted the growing trade ties between Asia and Africa in recent years, as well as that with Brazil by inaugurating flights to Rio de Janeiro. It also launched flights to Los Angeles and Toronto this year.
Tewolde said Ethiopian is planning Jakarta, Ho Chi Minh City and the Chinese cities of Chengdu and Shenzhen as its next Asian destinations, as well as adding Oslo in Europe and New York and Chicago in the United States.