Ethiopian Airlines CEO 'optimistic' on post-pandemic recovery

At a hangar in Addis Ababa, Ethiopian Airlines employees like Rekik Tsegaye are removing seats and adjusting wings as they convert the planes for cargo instead of passengers.

"We have converted 20 of them, it depends on the fleet but it took 36 hours and less."

A dramatic downturn in passenger numbers has seen Ethiopian Airlines attempt to diversify.

Chief executive Tewolde Gebremariam says demand for cargo has increased, particularly due to imports of personal protective equipment and medical supplies.

"... and these are located in Africa, in Europe, in America and particularly Europe in the beginning..."

And he's also confident that the passenger industry will recover.

"So we see some kind of maybe 50% recovery in the summer because it is a summer peak. And we see that people are sick and tired of the lockdown, as you can in Europe and America governments are opening, even people are also going out because people were not meant to be locked down."

Ethiopian Airlines recorded a loss of $550 million between January and April, but Tewolde ruled out seeking a bailout from the Ethiopian government.

Tewolde also said he expects a settlement with U.S. plane maker Boeing by the end of June.

That relates to compensation for the grounding of the 737 MAX in March 2019, following two fatal crashes including Ethiopian Airlines flight 302, which was carrying 157 passengers and crew.

Video Transcript

- At a hangar in Addis Ababa, Ethiopian Airlines employees, like Rekik Tsegaye are removing seats and adjusting wings, as they convert the planes for cargo instead of passengers.

REKIK TSEGAYE: We have converted 20 of them. It depends on the fleet, but it took 36 hours and less.

- A dramatic downturn in passenger numbers has seen Ethiopian Airlines attempt to diversify. Chief executive Tewolde Gebremariam says, demand for cargo has increased, particularly due to imports of personal protective equipment and medical supplies.

TEWOLDE GEBREMARIAM: And these are located in Africa, in Europe, and America, and particularly Europe in the beginning.

- And he's also confident that the passenger industry will recover.

TEWOLDE GEBREMARIAM: We see some kind of maybe 50% recovery in the summer, because it's a summer peak, and we see that people are sick and tired of the lockdown. As you can see in Europe and America, governments are opening. Even people are also going out, because people are not meant to be locked up.

- Ethiopian Airlines recorded a loss of $550 million US between January and April but Tewolde ruled out seeking a bailout from the Ethiopian government. He also said he expects a settlement with US playmaker Boeing by the end of June. That relates to compensation for the grounding of the 737 Max, in March 2019, following two fatal crashes, including Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 which was carrying 157 passengers and crew.