As novel coronavirus pressure grows, Ethiopian Airlines is starting to cut back its China flights
The novel coronavirus is a global concern and it has claimed almost 725 lives wherein the majority of the deaths are recurring in mainland China. The virus has also been detected in almost 24 countries involving people who traveled to China and its special administrative region namely Hong Kong and Macau. To date, there have been no confirmed cases in Africa but still, the risk of an outbreak remains high.
Amidst the rising criticism this Africa’s biggest airline is receiving, it still operates a flight to and from China though the airline has cut down its February weekly flights departing from Chengdu, Addis to Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou by 33%. Besides, it also changed its aircraft – Boeing 777 and A350 that flies on the Addis to Beijing, Guangzhou, and Shanghai route to Boeing 787-8. As a result, the capacity lessens in 20% – 45% change on different flights. Other African carriers namely Kenya Airways and Rwandair also cancel its flights to China.
Kenya’s president, Uhuru Kenyatta also took the initiative to urge Ethiopian Airlines in terms of canceling all of its flights. The country’s worry is not that China cannot manage the disease. The biggest one is that the weight if the disease will enter the areas with weaker health systems like theirs. However, the given reduction in several Ethiopian flights and its capacity might not be enough to avoid what could be a looming crisis. The majority believes that is more in response to a drop-off in China traffic than safety precautions.
Over the previous years, Ethiopian Airlines has become the leading carrier in Africa not only for the Africans in delivering services to several destinations on the continent. The primary gateway into Africa is Addis Ababa’s Bole International due to Ethiopian’s expansion. To date, the airline also has the highest number of flights between Africa and China.
Critics have been very vocal and believe that the government has been hesitant to curtail its Ethiopian Airline flights to avoid falling out with the Chinese government due to deep economic and even political ties between their countries. Ethiopia is similar to China wherein it has a centralized one-party led government with tight control over the economy. The Ethiopian top executive, Tewolde Gebremariam released a statement that the company has no intention of stopping all flights since it will not be morally acceptable.