Malta-Ethiopia talks on airline links

An Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 787-8 is loaded at the terminal.
Alan Wilson, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

LONDON – The Ethiopian Prime Minister, in an official visit to the Republic of Malta, announced increased cooperation between the two nations, including the potential for Ethiopian Airlines to use Malta as a stopover.

Closer Ties

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali and Prime Minister Robert Abela met in Valetta on 7 February 2023 to discuss the links and cooperation between Ethiopia and Malta. Aviation was high on the agenda along with maritime, science and education.

While the links between the two nations are still in development, it was reported that there is positive scope for increased cooperation.

Malta has recently opened an Embassy in Ethiopia with the desire for the island nation to become an important commercial hub for Ethiopia.

The Maltese Premier Abela said that the developments were positive for Malta and also allow the possible link for Ethiopian Airlines to use the island nation as a stopover to fly on to the United States of America.

Ethiopian Stopovers

The Ethiopian flag carrier currently operates to six destinations in the United States and Canada from the nation’s capital and the airline’s hub base, Addis Ababa.

All six outbound legs require a technical stop for refuelling due to the airport’s elevation (approx. 2300m / 7600ft above sea level). These services are:

  • Addis Abab to Washington Dulles, via Dublin – daily
  • Addis Abab to Chicago O’Hare, via Dublin – five times a week
  • Addis Abab to Toronto Pearson, via Dublin – five times a week
  • Addis Abab to Newark, via Lomé – three times a week
  • Addis Abab to Washington Dulles, via Lomé – three times a week
  • Addis Abab to New York JFK, via Lomé – twice a week

These routes have been operated via Dublin since 2015 and Lomé since 2016. Rome FCO was used prior to this. Another former route between Ethiopia and North America was performed via the Côte d’Ivoire / Ivory Coast airport in Abidjan.

However, this has not returned since its cancellation at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The carrier also announced in January 2023 a new route to Atlanta which would operate via the Irish Capital from the 16 May 2023.

Ethiopian Airlines, the country’s national airline, is the largest airline in Africa and the fourth-largest network in the world. It currently operates an international network with a wide-ranging fleet of over 140 aircraft.

Malta – A European Gateway

Photo Credit: Malta International Airport

For centuries, Malta has occupied a strategically important position for naval activities and trade due to its position in the centre of the Mediterranean sea.

More recently, aviation activity has significantly increased on the island and it is a key tourist destination for travellers from the UK, Germany and neighbouring Italy.

Ethiopian, as a member of Star Alliance, could open up increased connections for Malta travellers and link to existing European services to the island.

Malta currently does not have a non-stop service to North American destinations – most travellers must connect via London Heathrow, Paris, Rome, Frankfurt or other hub airports in Europe.

In January 2022, the board of Malta International Airport approved investment plans to expand the ramp facilities and increase handling capabilities, both in terms of volume and aircraft size.

The airport currently handles, mostly, narrowbody movements to Europe, North Africa and the Middle East and some select widebody operations, most notably an Emirates service to Dubai via Larnaca.

Malta also hosts some significant engineering facilities, including Lufthansa Technik – Lufthansa also being a member of Star Alliance with Ethiopian.

With a positive end to talks in Valetta, Malta may provide an attractive alternative stopover for Ethiopian and this, in turn, could provide improved connections for travellers between Malta and North America and Africa.

By Jack K Byrne 5 Min Read
5 Min Read
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