8th April 1946:
The first scheduled flight took place to Cairo via Asmara in Douglas C-47 Skytrain. The national airline had been set up a few months earlier as Ethiopian Air Lines Inc., a joint venture with American airline, TWA (Trans World Airlines). Five US Government surplus C-47 aircraft were purchased for venture. Following the successful inaugural flight to Cairo, a regular weekly service was established. Weekly services to Djibouti and Aden followed, as well as a domestic service to Jimma. Demands for additional services were so great that towards the end of 1946, four more C-47 Skytrains were purchased. Since these aircraft were ex-US military, they had few comforts; all had folding bench-type canvas seats along the sides, with the central aisle kept clear so that cargo could be lashed to the floor.
Three more Skytrains were purchased for the international routes. These were fitted out in a ‘luxury’ layout with 21 forward facing seats and were the first to wear the colorful Ethiopian Airlines livery.
During the late 1940s the route network was extended to Nairobi, Port Sudan and Bombay. Charter flights were also flown to Jeddah during the Hajj season, carrying pilgrims to Makkah.
Two Convair 240 aircraft were purchased, followed later by a third, for use on foreign routes. These higher-performance aircraft had fully furnished interiors and seats for 36 passengers. Their pressurized cabins allowed the aircraft to fly higher, in smoother air.
By the end of 1952 the faithful Skytrains were still the mainstay for the domestic routes, linking 21 towns and cities to the capital and carrying both passengers and cargo.
Three quarters of the airline’s staff were now Ethiopian but expatriates still held most key posts. The Ethiopian government negotiated and new agreement with TWA with ultimate aim of operating entirely with Ethiopian personnel.
The fist Ethiopian commercial aircraft commander, Alemayehu Abebe, made his solo flight as captain on DC-3/C-47 aircraft.
The National Airline Training Project was set up with US Government help in Addis Ababa to train local pilots, technicians and supervisory personnel.
The airline established its own maintenance facility at Addis Ababa, reducing the need for maintenance overseas. In subsequent years the facilities expanded into a well-equipped center for maintenance, overhaul and modification work on aircraft, engines and avionic systems, not only for its own aircraft, but also for other airlines in the region.
The route network expanded with flights to Frankfurt.
The DC-6B Cloudmasters were purchased. These four-engined, 71-seat aircraft were used on the long-haul routes.
The airlines prepared to enter the jet age and decide that the Boeing 720B best met its requirements. However, the existing airfield serving Addis Ababa – Lidetta, which had been built in 1936 - was not suitable for jet operation, which required a long runway, and a decision was made to construct an entirely new airport and headquarters at Bole.
A new east-west service was inaugurated, linking Addis Ababa with Monrovia in Liberia, via Khartoum and Accra. This was the first direct air link between east and west Africa operated by any airline.
By December the new runway and control tower at bole international Airport were operational and two Boeing 720Bs arrived on their delivery flights. Ethiopian was the first airline in Africa to order Boeing 720B.
On 15th January the airline inaugurated its first jet service, from Bole to Nairobi. The following day the second Boeing inaugurated a new route to Madrid, via Asmara and Athens. Meanwhile the elderly Skytrains and their related civilian DC-3s continued to fly the domestic and cargo services and six further DC-3s were bought during the next decade. Despite their age, these aircraft were ideally suited to Ethiopia’s rugged terrain and high altitude.
The company changed its legal status from a corporation to share company. At the same time the
name was changed from Ethiopian Air Lines to Ethiopian Airlines.
Colonel Semret Medhane was appointed general manager, the first Ethiopian to hold the position.
A Boeing 720B flight simulator was acquired, making the airline independent of foreign airlines for its pilot training.
Two Boeing 727s were purchased for medium-range routes, to replace the oldest Boeing 720s.
The airline bought a third Boeing 727 and two de Havilland Canada DHC-5 Buffalo short-field transports for use on domestic services.
Ethiopian Airlines attracted worldwide attention on 1st June when its first Boeing 767 landed at Bole after a thirteen-and-a-half hour delivery flight from New York - setting a new world distance record for
a commercial twin-engine jet. The airline, which was a launch customer for the new aircraft, brought two of the advanced wide bodied B-767 aircraft to replace the ageing Boeing 720s. In addition to their 190-seat passenger capacity the aircraft could carry 12 tones of cargo in the hold.
At the end of 1985, when the DC-3/Skytrains started to be withdrawn, the airline still had nine of these in service, all of them at least 40 years old. The last of these aircraft remained in service until October, 1991. The main replacements were six 18-seater DHC-6 Twin Otters, and - for the busier domestic routes - two ATR-42 fast and modern 46-seater aircraft.
The Cargo Management Department was established to afford special attention to the development of the airline’s cargo services. Hitherto the airline had regarded its cargo operations more as a public service commitment that as a secondary source of income.
The airline’s Engineering Division opened a new purpose-built jet engine test facility, allowing engines of up to 45,000 kg (100,000lbs) thrust to be ground tested.
As the airlines celebrated its 50th anniversary the route network stretched from Europe (London, Frankfurt, and Rome) to China (Beijing) and Thailand (Bangkok). The Middle East and Indian sub-continent were well represented, and the airline’s African routes reached Senegal and Ivory Coast in the west, Cairo in the north, and Johannesburg and Durban in the south. The fleet consisted of two ATR-42 and four DHC-6 Twin Otters for the domestic passenger services, one Boeing 737 and four Boeing 757 aircraft for the medium range passenger services and three Boeing 767s for long-range services. For its cargo and non-scheduled services the airline had one Boeing 707 freighter, one Boeing 757 Freighter, two Lockheed L-100 commercial Hercules and one DHC-5 Buffalo.
The pilot training school was equipped with a state-of-the-art flight simulator, replicating the flight deck of the Boeing 767. The simulator was also used to train crews on the Boeing 757, whose flight deck is similar.
In October, 1996 the first of five Fokker 50s was acquired to enhance the domestic services.
Another giant leap was made with the launch of a twice-weekly service to Washington – the Airline’s first destination in the Americas – and New York followed shortly after.
In February, the ShebaMiles frequent flyer program was launched.
Construction started on a new, ultra-modern terminal building at Bole International Airport to upgrade passenger services and cater for an anticipated increase in traffic. In November, Scandinavia was brought into the route network for the first time with a new service to Copenhagen, Denmark, along with a new route to Maputo, Mozambique.
The airline embarked on a period of sustained growth and fleet modernization with plans to purchase, over the next four years, 12 new aircraft. Six Next-Generation B737-700s and six 767-300ERs were scheduled to replace the existing two B737-200s and two B767-200. In October, night operations out of Addis Ababa were introduced to
complement the daytime flights.
The new, 3,800 meter runway and control tower at Bole International Airport became operational, along with the spacious new airport terminal with its 21st- century facilities. Renovation of the older terminal began to serve mainly
the domestic flights.
Ethiopian Airlines announced that it would be Africa’s launch carrier for the
new Boeing 787 Dreamliner, with a firm order for ten of these ultra-modern jets,
and an option for five more. The order for the new fuel-efficient, long-range, passenger-friendly aircraft was valued at USD 1.3 billion. Boeing begun production
of the revolutionary new aircraft in 2006 and Ethiopian expects to take delivery
beginning from 2011.
Ethiopian Airlines proudly celebrated its 60 years of dependable and safe air transport services on May 05, 2006 where the Airline’s CEO had an opportunity to say a big "thank you" to all that supported the airline along the way. The same year marked Ethiopian Airlines’ modernization and capacity building programme through the construction of a new maintenance hangar and cargo terminal complexes which were officially inaugurated and commissioned.
Ethiopian was proud to have achieved two awards by African Aviation Journal and the African/Times USA. The prestigious award by the African Aviation Journal is in recognition of its excellent financial performance, passenger growth, route network expansion, fleet modernization, in-flight service and overall customer care. The 2007 Africa Business of the Year Award, presented to Ethiopian by the US African Times was for its
"achievement and continuing contribution to the uplift of Africa’s profile and the quality of life for Africans everywhere".
Ethiopian also secured the IATA-IOSA registration certificate as a result of
"the Airline’s fundamental commitment to provide safe and reliable air transport services for passengers and cargo".
Ethiopian entered into a code share agreement with Lufthansa which has put Ethiopian in a position to offer daily flights to its customers from its hub Addis Ababa to Lufthansa’s hub in Frankfurt with convenient onward flight connections to many other destinations around the world. During this period Ethiopian also entered into code-sharing agreements with other airlines including Brussels Airlines.
Ethiopian ordered 35 new airplanes direct from the manufacturers. Including the orders of five B777-200LR and twelve A350-900, Ethiopian has also on order ten Boeing B787 and eight Bombardier aircrafts. These investments l enables Ethiopian to operate one of the youngest fleet in Africa with better comfort and efficiency.
Ethiopian Airlines and ASKY signed a management contract which enables Ethiopian Airlines to manage ASKY for a period of five years. The management contract is an important move marking an historic intra-African co-operation in the airline business. The agreement helps the two carriers to develop a West African hub in Lome, Togo for the regional and inter-continental routes.
Ethiopian Airlines has entered into a code share agreement with Scandinavian Airlines, one of the founding members of Star Alliance, providing travelers with better connectivity and a broad range of services between Europe and Africa.
Ethiopian opened new services to Pointe Noire, the second largest city in the Republic of Congo, effective June 16, 2010.
Ethiopian received three Boeing 777-200LLRs in 2011 increasing the total number of 777-200LRs to five.
Ethiopian started new services to Hangzhou-China, to Malakal-Southern Sudan, Milan-Italy, Muscat-Oman. Ethiopian also launched daily nonstop flights to Beijing with its long range 777-200.
Ethiopian received four different awards during in 2011. Ethiopian received "AFRICAN CARGO AIRLINE OF THE YEAR" Award on 24 February 2011. Ethiopian won “Deal of the Year 2010” Award on 20 April, 2011. Ethiopian Airlines also named "Africa’s Most Profitable Airlines" for the third time in a row in July 2011. Ethiopian Airlines also received the AFRAA Award for being consistently profitable over the years at the 43rd AFRAA Annual General Assembly held in Marrakesh, Morocco on November 21, 2011.
Ethiopian signed code share with Singapore airlines and Asiana Airlines,
Ethiopian Airlines ordered Four 777 Freighters from the Boeing Company.
Ethiopian Aviation Academy and Ethiopian MRO secured European Aviation Safety Agency Approval. Ethiopian Airlines Aviation Academy received the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) approved part-147 type maintenance training organization certification while Ethiopian MRO Unit received EASA Part 145 approval.
On December 11, 2011, Ethiopian Airlines Captain flew the first 787 to the African soil with debut landing at Addis Ababa’s Bole International Airport.
Ethiopian Airlines joined Star Alliance on December 13, 2011. At a ceremony held at Addis Ababa’s Bole International Airport the Star Alliance Chief Executive Board (CEB) welcomed Ethiopian Airlines as the Alliance’s third carrier based on the African continent.