ADDIS ABABA, Feb. 28 (Xinhua) -- Ethiopia's flag carrier Ethiopian Airlines (ET) forecasts further growth in its already robust share in the Chinese air market, an Ethiopian official said on Thursday.
Speaking exclusively to Xinhua, Esayas Woldemariam, Managing Director of International Services at ET said the airlines already flies to five destinations in China, but is already aiming for even more Chinese destinations.
ET currently operates daily passenger flights from Addis Ababa to Guangzhou and Beijing, and three-times-a-week passenger flights to Chengdu, as well as daily passenger and cargo flights to Hong Kong and Shanghai. ET was the first African airline to start flight services to China, back in 1973.
"Ethiopian Airlines is planning to add the Chinese cities of Dalian, Zhengzhou and Hangzhou, helping ET cover destinations in the eastern, central and northern parts of China," Woldemariam told Xinhua.
ET plans to start cargo flight services to Zhengzhou city while it plans to start passenger flight services to Dalian and Hangzhou cities.
"The Chinese destinations ET currently flies to and the three other ones it's planning to travel to are known for being production and shipping centers, adding more value to Ethiopia's aviation partnership with China," said Woldemariam.
"ET has also many other Chinese cities in its network radar, but it all depends on the approval from the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), which has so far been very cooperative to us," he further said.
However, Woldemariam said Ethiopian Airlines doesn't see China as only a travel destination, with ET currently discussing with Chinese air carriers on possible commercial partnerships.
ET is already in discussions with Chinese air carriers to sign special priority agreements.
Special priority agreements are when ET transports passengers to a certain point, with Chinese air carriers taking the ET passengers to their final Chinese destinations. Then after, ET and Chinese air carriers set up a mechanism to share the flight revenues.
"ET is currently in discussions with Air China, Shenzhen Airlines and China Southern Airlines. We have invited these Chinese air carriers to operate in Ethiopia, as part of efforts to boost bilateral aviation cooperation," said Woldemariam.
"ET's discussion with Chinese air carriers isn't just about flying to Chinese destinations. We also want to help Chinese air carriers have the opportunity to fly to African destinations," Woldemariam told Xinhua.
Woldemariam said with ET being the first African airline to start flights to China in the 1970s, it sees its role as bringing closer together China and Africa in every aspect possible.
"Ethiopia as a country is enjoying a very good relationship with China for nearly five decades. Ethiopia has also helped China extend its relationship to the rest of Africa, with aviation playing a key role," Woldemariam said.