(Ecofin Agency) - Ethiopian Airlines is not suspending flights to China, amid the coronavirus outbreak. During a press conference held last week, CEO Tewolde Gebremariam (pictured) announced that Africa’s largest airline has no plans to shut down its lines to the country.
“WHO clearly stated that suspending flights to China would not end the coronavirus outbreak as victims of the virus are located in other countries,” Tewolde said. According to him, closing routes to China is not a guarantee that the virus will not spread to the Ethiopian land.
“Even if Ethiopia suspends flights to China, other airlines would bring passengers to Ethiopia. Secondly, through Star Alliance, code share and interline agreements, Ethiopia will transport passengers originating from China. We fly to Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Japan and Korea. So we will transport passengers transiting in these countries,” he explained.
Tewolde Gebremariam emphasized that “the most important thing is to strengthen the passenger screening mechanism and follow the WHO procedures.”
Ethiopian Airlines has been serving China since 1972 and currently, the carrier transports an average of 4,000 Chinese daily between their country and Africa. The company operates in Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Guangzhou and Chengdu.
Unlike other African airlines such as EgyptAir, Royal Air Maroc, Kenya Airways, RwandAir, Air Mauritius, Air Madagascar, and Air Algérie, which have all closed lines to China, Ethiopia has only reduced frequencies from 7 to 5 weekly flights to Beijing, Guangzhou, and Shanghai, and from 4 to 2 to Chengdu. The carrier has however maintained the number of weekly flights to Hong Kong.
“China has a strong trade and investment relationship with Africa and Ethiopian Airlines is the major carrier that links China with many African countries. If we stop flights to China we break that relationship,” the CEO concluded.