TOKYO -- Ethiopian Airlines is adding flights between its African hub and Chinese cities and plans to add direct flights between Addis Ababa and Tokyo, CEO Tewolde Gebremariam told Nikkei.
The carrier will increase its weekly flights between the Ethiopian capital and Chinese cities to 50, up from 35. The expansion is aimed at meeting the increasing demand for flights to Africa from Chinese businesspeople, investors and tourists.
The airline also plans to beef up its Japan services by connecting Tokyo with Addis Ababa seven times a week by 2021. It currently offers the service five times a week, with a transfer in Seoul.
The new service will be direct and use Tokyo's Haneda Airport rather than the current Narita Airport, in Chiba Prefecture.
Ethiopian Airlines flies to 60 cities in more than 40 countries and uses Addis Ababa Bole International Airport as its hub.
The airport is also a gateway to the rest of Africa. "Connections in Addis are very short, about two hours," Gebremariam said. "It is the fastest [transfer point] to any African country."
The airline is already negotiating with China to increase flights to Beijing, Shenzhen, Guangzhou and other cities. Flights to Guangzhou will be increased to 14 per week from 10.
Elsewhere, the airline will add two more flights between its African hub and Singapore and is endeavoring to gain access to Vietnam.
Gebremariam also spoke on a crash in March involving an Ethiopian Airlines' Boeing 737 MAX. All 157 people aboard died. Gebremariam said Boeing needs to take the crash more seriously. "Updating the software is not enough," he said, indicating that the airline might cancel an order if Boeing does not take additional measures.