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A South African A340 (Photo: AirlineGeeks | James Dinsdale)

Ethiopian Eyeing Stakes in South African Airways

Another day, another rumor that Africa’s largest carrier Ethiopian is considering ways to potentially offer support to the insolvent South African Airways with sources familiar with the matter citing talks between Ethiopian Airlines Group eyeing stakes are already in place with the South African government.

The long-rumored potential tie-up between two of Africa’s largest carriers is once again garnering headlines with Ethiopian Chief Executive Officer Tewolde GebreMariam admitting talks have taken place in the past but were put on hold, per Bloomberg.

But even as we are looking at a successful tie-up of two of the largest carriers in the continent, the timing of such a deal may sound unlikely (so to speak) to send the African aviation industry to a wave of consolidation due to so many other distressed deals expected during the pandemic recovery.

Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan said Ethiopian was “one of many” interested parties the government is in talks with. A spokeswoman for SAA’s administrators declined to comment.

South African Airways needs to raise R10 billion ($595 million) according to a rescue plan by administrators which should be backed by both the state and labor groups.

The Department of Public Enterprise has also in the past acknowledged receiving as many as 10 expressions of interest from “private-sector funders, private-equity investors and partners.”

SAA has been grounded for over five months and even as talks with Ethiopian are currently underway, sources say much of the funding is likely to come from private financial backers rather than Ethiopian, which would bring more operational expertise to the table.

International travel remains banned from South Africa for leisure purposes, though domestic flights were recently given the green light as part of a wider economic reopening.

A New Terminal

Meanwhile, Ethiopian Airlines Group has opened a new passenger terminal at its Addis Ababa’s Bole International Airport hub with an emphasis on biosecurity and safety measures, according to the company.

The new terminal has a check-in hall with 60 counters, 30 self-check-in kiosks, 10 self-bag drops, 16 immigration counters with more e-gate provisions, and 16 central security screening areas for departing passengers.

In addition, the new terminal has three contact gates for wide-body aircraft along with 10 remote contact gates.

It will house 32 arrival immigration counters with eight e-gate provisions at the mezzanine floor level.

Regarding the new infrastructure, the Group CEO Tewolde GebreMariam remarked, “I am very pleased to witness the realization of a brand-new terminal at our Hub. While Addis Ababa Bole International Airport has overtaken Dubai to become the largest gateway to Africa last year, the new terminal will play a key role in cementing that position. What makes the new terminal unique is that it’s the first terminal in the world to be completed after Covid-19. It was designed, not re-purposed, with Bio safety and Bio security in mind. I’m sure our esteemed customers will highly appreciate that.”

Victor Shalton
Victor Shalton
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