We are a Pan-African airline, Yissehak Zewoldi – CEO, ASKY Airlines

ASKY Airlines is a Lomé-based private airline.

Yissehak Zewoldi (Photo: The Reporter)
Yissehak Zewoldi (Photo: The Reporter)

ASKY [meaning African Sky] serves 22 destinations in West and Central Africa with seven passenger and one cargo aircraft. Ethiopian Airlines is the strategic partner of ASKY with the former owning an almost 40 percent stake.  Every week the airlines operates over 100 flights and carries more than 10,000 passengers. The airlines celebrated carrying its millionth passenger in March 2013. Kaleyesus Bekele of The Reporter last week interviewed the chief executive officer of the airlines, Yissehak Zewoldi, at his office in Lomé, Togo. Excerpts:

The Reporter: How was ASKY established? 

Yissehak Zewoldi: In the demise of Air Afrique (a defunct West African Airline) early in 1980, a serious air transport gap was created in West and Central Africa. In 1998 leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) got together and decided to establish a regional airline to facilitate air travel within the regions. Then a commission was formed. The team was led by our board chairman, Gervais Koffi Djondo, a former minister (of Togo), and a visionary and successful entrepreneur who was instrumental in the establishment of the now famous ECO Bank. They hired consultants who work on the establishment of the new airline and they were looking for a strategic partner. After several attempts they came to Addis Ababa to present their vision and discuss possible cooperation or partnership with Ethiopian Airlines.

That was how the partnership between ASKY and Ethiopian was born. Ethiopian Airlines did its own study and totally modified the initial study that was prepared by the consultants. The consultant’s idea was more or else to duplicate the old Air Afrique network. The Ethiopian’s proposal suggested that the new airline should first focus on serving the regional market (in west and central Africa).

After several discussions it was agreed that Ethiopian Airlines would take over the management of the new airline for a period of five years.

Wasn’t there any disagreement between the founders of ASKY and the management of Ethiopian Airlines on the business plan of the new airline? The founders wanted the new airline to serve the intercontinental and regional markets while the management of Ethiopian wanted to initially focus on serving the regional market until the airline is well placed in the market place.

No, there was no disagreement. Ethiopian proved to them the rationale behind the focus on the regional market by demonstrating the benefits of regional service. The new study has lots of merits. First focus was given to connecting the regional cities and commercial centers. Second, Ethiopian Airlines proved to them that for a new airline (at early age) venturing into a mature and highly competitive international market to be very risky and unsustainable.

So ASKY was established in 2009.

It was established in 2009 and the first flight took off to Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, on January 15, 2010. Read more at the Ethiopian Reporter