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Ethiopian Airlines banked on cargo as COVID-19 hit global travel this year

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Ethiopian Airlines has converted its passenger planes to cargo in a bid to help the company diversify and overcome a drastic downturn in passenger revenue.

Ethiopian Airlines chief executive Tewolde Gebremariam said his airline had converted 22 passengers planes to cargo aircrafts.

Tewolde said demand for cargo had increased mainly due to the demand in Europe and America for personal protective equipment (PPE’s) and medical supplies to tackle the virus.

“We have been converting passenger aircrafts to cargo aircrafts. We have converted 20 of them, it depends on the fleet but it took 36 hours and less (to convert one). We have been doing this for the past two months,” said cabin maintenance technician, Rekik Tsegaye.

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Ethiopian Airlines had not cancelled any jet purchases by May despite the collapse in air travel, though several orders, including some from Boeing and Airbus, had been delayed.

Ethiopian Airlines recorded a loss of $550 million between January and April, but Tewolde ruled out seeking a bailout from the Ethiopian government and remained optimistic.

“We are a little bit more optimistic, so we see some kind of maybe 50% recovery in the summer because it is a summer peak. And we see that people are sick and tired of the lockdown,” said Gebremariam.

The global aviation industry has been at a virtual standstill due to the coronavirus pandemic, forcing airlines that were once eager for new jet deliveries to grow their networks to scale back their flying schedules and park planes.

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