LAHORE: Ethiopian Airlines’ decision to initiate flights between Karachi and Addis Ababa on March 26 is set to be historic. Ethiopia’s flag carrier will open up a nonstop flight route which will make it the only such route going to not only Ethiopia but also the only nonstop to and from the African continent as a whole as well.
The direct flight between Ethiopia and Pakistan, which has a flight time of around eight hours, will serve as a crucial link between the two countries. However, it will also assist with destinations further afield due to Ethiopian Airlines being a member of the Star Alliance — the world’s largest global alliance with 26 members across 195 countries.
What are the benefits to flyers?
The immediate benefit to flyers, apart from direct access to Addis Ababa, is through the aforementioned Star Alliance. It will benefit Pakistani flyers by opening up more destinations through code sharing, ease booking and flight connections on other member alliances, and offer more ways to use air miles benefits if customers are already part of frequent flyer programmes with any of the other members.
Codeshares in particular is a benefit that will provide utility for customers. Codeshares allow customers to book a larger variety of flights directly through one airline than that airline operates by itself. This means that long-haul or multi-connection tickets can be booked all the way through with the same airline, even though flights may be operated by multiple airlines.
The long-term potential benefit for customers would be other members also commencing nonstop flights into Pakistan. South African Airways, and Egyptair in particular are also members of the Star Alliance. Sustained success in the Pakistani market could potentially entice the other two African flag carriers to initiate their own operations as well.
Mutual economic courtship
The establishment of this air route is part of both Pakistan and Ethiopia’s greater economic plans for integration and trade. For Pakistan, greater engagement with Ethiopia goes back to its Look Africa Policy Initiative of 2017. It was then that Ethiopia was designated as one of the 10 major African economies that Pakistan would seek to develop greater economic ties with going forward. According to the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan, Ethiopia was a $1.79 million destination for Pakistani exports and a source for $22.36 million imports in 2020.
More importantly, the direct air link is expected to jump start Pakistan’s trade engagement with the rest of the African continent as well. Africa accounted for 5.43% of all of Pakistan’s exports, and 5.63% of all imports in FY 2021 according to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics.
Conversely, Ethiopia has been on its own charm offensive in Islamabad. The country established their first embassy earlier this year in September 2022, with Jemal Beker Abdula, becoming the first Ethiopian Ambassador to Pakistan.
Abdula has emphasised the significance of the new direct flight as a means to connect Pakistan with Ethiopia and, by extension, the rest of Africa. Abdula estimates that the direct service between Addis Ababa and Karachi will increase trade volumes between Ethiopia and Pakistan from $80 million to $200 million.
To further drive home the business, trade, and investment opportunities that Ethiopia has to offer, the Ethiopian ambassador has invited a Pakistani business delegation to visit Ethiopia between March 5 and March 10. The delegation, consisting of over 100 members of Chambers of Commerce and Industry in various cities in Pakistan, will have the opportunity to explore diverse sectors of the Ethiopian economy, including textiles, pharmaceuticals, rice, chemicals, steel, and cement.