Mr. Tewolde Gebre Mariam, CEO of aviation group, explains to us about his time with the business and how he has managed to oversee the company in its exceptional growth trajectory from being a local carrier to an internationally renowned entity.
Ethiopian Airlines came into being in 1945 and then made its inaugural flight the following year in 1946 serving as a local carrier up until 1951. From its humble begging all the way to its current global prominence, Ethiopian Airlines has been uninterruptedly serving business, leisure and religious travellers with its unrivalled efficiency and operational success.
Commanding the lion’s share of Pan-African passenger and cargo network with its youngest and most modern fleet including Airbus A350, Boeing 787-8, Boeing 787-9, Boeing 777-300R, Boeing 777-200 Freightliner, Bombardier Q-400 double cabin, the average fleet age is around five years old, Ethiopian currently flies to more than 116 international passenger and cargo destinations across 5 continents.
“We are currently implementing a 15-year strategic plan called Vision 2025 that will see us become one of the leading aviation groups in the world with six business centers namely, Ethiopian International Services; Ethiopian Cargo & Logistics Services; Ethiopian MRO Services; Ethiopian Aviation Academy; Ethiopian ADD Hub Ground Services and Ethiopian Airports Services. Ethiopian is a multi-award-winning airline registering an average annual growth of 25% in the past seven years”.
Since 1985, Mr. Tewolde has an exceptional career with Ethiopian Airlines having worked his way up from Transportation Agent into other senior positions, up until he assumed his current highest executive position of Africa’s largest airline’s group in January 2011.
With the continued expansion of the business, we asked Mr. Tewolde what he feels is key to effective leadership and inspiring success amongst staff; “Leadership is about creating an engaged employee population. As a CEO of Africa’s Largest Airline Group, part of my job is to inspire my employees and the management to push themselves – and, in turn, the airline – to greatness. To do this, I always pioneer the way by doing it myself.
It is my firm conviction that if one says one thing and do another, they likely won’t get their employees follow them enthusiastically. Everything we tell our employees will eventually meet with suspicion and doubt and the vision we pursue may lose its appeal, just because our team doesn’t trust us anymore. Keeping this in mind, I always push my employees forward with excitement, inspiration, trust, and vision. By and large, leading by example is fundamentally decisive for effective leadership and business resilience”
It’s clear when speaking to Mr. Tewolde that his passions lay in leadership and employee satisfaction. It is imperative to the ongoing operational developments of Ethiopian Airlines and the way this filter’s through to customer satisfaction. The strategy to achieve success is as follows “There is only one thing we can’t go without if we want to succeed in any area of life, and that’s hard work. Success doesn’t happen by chance and it takes strategic actions in the right direction to get there.
For Ethiopian Airlines to continue its steady and comprehensive expansion within Africa and the rest of the world, the following areas really need to be addressed; Better developed Airport and ICT infrastructure across the African Continent, quicker paced open sky agreements, lower taxation charges on aviation fuel, overflying, landing and parking and limited market access within Africa. We find they face unfair competition from Gulf based airliners who have access to government subsidies and very cheap aviation fuel.
With Ethiopian Airlines being a fast-paced airliner transporting tens of thousands of customers daily, supply chain relationships are fundamental to the safety and implacable service of the airline. Ethiopian Airlines work with a high number of internationally renowned businesses from all over the globe. MRO supply chain probably must be the most important area of supply chain in terms to annual spending. The MRO unit of the airline provides approved and dependable services which ensure the safety of the fleet, passengers and on-board staff. These relationships are long standing and the carrier maintains a strong and win-win relationship with suppliers.
What really sets Ethiopian Airlines apart from its rivals is the fact that the airline bases its day to day operation with its exceptionally dedicated employees and management, who do not consider their association with their airline as a simple contract of employment for a monthly paycheck; rather they consider themselves to be in a long-term mission of building a competitive global airline brand for their country. With this passion and commitment, its employees serve their customers with an Ethiopian hospitality that is unique to Ethiopian Airlines and retain them with high customer-centricity.
Ethiopian Airlines is located at a geographically ideal position, giving it the advantage of offering seamless and convenient connection options for travelers to and from Europe, Middle East and Asia. With a geocentric advantage enjoys an added level of competitiveness to best connect people of the world within a 10-hour radius.
The Cost Leadership stance of the airline has also immensely contributed to its remarkable growth, producing the maximum value proposition at the least possible unit cost in the industry. In this regard, there is also a continuous cost saving program which helped create any cost reduction way across multiple working areas.
A uniquely strong HRD strategy and execution. Through training and development, unwavering safety first stand and execution of their Vision 2025, Ethiopian strives to nurture a team which can cope with the volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) type of operating environment. Highly skilled and vigilant management skillfully navigating through difficult situations.
Ethiopian Airlines also has the most reputable corporate governance with a clear relationship with the Ethiopian government, the owner of the carrier. Their airline is a 100% government owned organization, but ownership and management of the airline are separate, the management is handled by seasoned aviation professionals who run the airline on the standards of a normal profit-making business enterprise.
The hallmark of African flavored Ethiopian hospitality has a great place as a success element. Ethiopia is a country, very well-known for its warm hospitality. By nature; Ethiopian people are very welcoming all that’s need is to just add professional knowledge and industry procedures through basic and recurrent trainings. For this they have been recognized by the most reputed customer-service tracking organization in the airline industry, Sky Trax, for Best Airline Staff in Africa multiple times.
Above all, they superbly understand the African aviation market, they know their African customers very well, more than any airline, which matters a lot as well. Focusing on establishing a ‘global standard of product for the best value’ in its Cloud Nine and economy products that will attract the ‘price rational’ African traveler.
Recent exciting developments were some of the things Mr. Tewolde was keen to discuss; “We have just collaborated with Chad national carrier which will allow us and them to benefit from the continents thriving economies. It’s imperative that partnering with other organizations across the industry will continue the expansion of services as the business moves forward.
“Africa today is an economic giant. It is one of the fastest growing regions in the world. Its young population is about one sixth of the world. It is endowed with vast resources of precious minerals and large reserves of oil. Africa has the largest uncultivated arable land in the world. With an ever-growing middle class and fast-growing economy, we are truly seeing the African Renaissance with immense economic growth and transformation. Putting all things together, Africa is now the last frontier in globalization and it will continue to maintain the momentum of its fast growth throughout the 21st century.
Hence, African governments need to understand that aviation is not a luxury and they must ensure that they need to put in place the right policy instruments to support aviation to help it flourish as Aviation is a catalyst for other sectors to grow as well, because Aviation is an enabler for tourism, trade, investment development and economic integration. Our leaders should also pave the way for indigenous airlines to be the prime beneficiaries of their continent’s air transport business.