Ethiopia overtakes Dubai as top feeder of air traffic to Africa

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Ethiopian Airlines staff prepare their plane as they resume flights to Eritrea's capital Asmara at the Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia July 18, 2018. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri

NAIROBI (Reuters) – Ethiopia has overtaken Dubai as a conduit for long-haul passengers to Africa, highlighting the success of the state airline’s expansion drive and the reforms of its new prime minister.

Travel consultancy ForwardKeys said Addis Ababa airport had increased the number of international transfer passengers to sub-Saharan Africa for five years in a row, and in 2018 had surpassed Dubai, one of the world’s busiest airports, as the transfer hub for long-haul travel to the region.

Analyzing data from travel booking systems that record 17 million flight bookings a day, ForwardKeys found the number of long-haul transfers to sub-Saharan Africa via Addis Ababa jumped by 85 percent from 2013 to 2017. Transfers via Dubai over the same period rose by 31 percent.

So far this year, Addis Ababa’s growth is 18 percent, versus 3 percent for Dubai.

Ethiopian Airlines [ETHA.UL], the country’s most successful state company, is accelerating a 15-year strategy it launched in 2010 to win back market share on routes to and from Africa that are dominated by Turkish Airlines and Emirates.

It is also weaving a patchwork of new African routes to rapidly expanding and lucrative Asian markets.

ForwardKeys also attributed the recent jump in bookings via Addis Ababa in part to a positive international response to the broad reforms introduced by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who came to power in April and has upended politics in the Horn of Africa country of around 105 million people.

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