Esayas Hailu: Face of success, leadership at Ethiopian airlines


Posted by Sade Williams

He walked into the conference room at Ethiopian airline’s headquarters in Addis Ababa at about 6.00 pm where a host of Nigerian aviation and tourism journalists were seated waiting for him, quietly and took his seat.

Some of the journalists had not met him physically, and those who had met him could have done so in Nigeria where he spent four years as Country manager in the country.

So, expectations of meeting a giant that would be escorted to meet journalists and that could probably fit into his position as Managing director, Ethiopian International Services, was dashed as he humbly walked to the end of the conference table where an empty seat was positioned for him.

As MD, Ethiopian International Services, Esayas Woldemariam Hailu heads and directs the development and coordination of Sales, Services and Operation of all International Flights and field office of Ethiopian Airlines (ET) Group activities and objectives, policies, procedures, plans and programs.

He directs and controls the company’s individual and corporate passenger sales, ticketing, reservations, and passenger services activities at all overseas locations of Ethiopian Airlines, all over the planet.

He establishes revenue targets and evaluate its implementation, apart from overseeing the administrative and sales support staff to ensure that the required assistance and support is in place, including customer oriented schedules , products, pricing are established and efficient administrative , promotional and distribution support are provided for sales offices to achieve their revenue target.

And Mr. Ikechi Uko, organiser, Akwaaba African Travel Market and publisher, ATQ Magazine, who is the airline’s consultant in Nigeria, ticked an introduction and so we took turns to introduce ourselves. Hailu mentions each name and medium as he hears it, to stamp into memory.

The interview soon started and the first question was fired, and that has to do with the effect of the unfortunate crash on the airline’s overall operations.

Hailu, whose voice was first laden with emotions, noted that it impacted on them but had not diminished their traffic due to the fact that Boeing, the maker of the Max 8 aircraft involved in the crash, aplogised openly to the whole world for poor design in the aircraft. So, Ethiopian airline was exonerated to the amazement of some foreign media which had earlier written articles, heaping blames on the airline over alleged poor maintenance.

“The lost lives, our passengers and crew, irreplaceable human lives, it has been so depressing, all of us were in emergency situation for the first one week. Starting from the media, logistics and search and rescue operations. The second biggest loss was the aircraft, one of the 5 MAXs that we have, the third was our brand, but we found out that the entire world had a good sense of allegiance towards us and everybody knew it was from the design deficiency, even Boeing came out and apologised officially, even FAA also acknowledged that it was from the design. But finally, our commercial brand emerged even stronger”, he said.

He noted further that ET would not hesitate to use the aircraft only when all the airlines in the whole world, Boeing and FAA had tested and tried it and declared it fit to carry passengers.

“Of course, in the future, we said we are going to receive the rest of the  order to have a total of 27MAXs but that will only be determined by the outcome of the adjustment of the aircraft system and FAA accrediting it and all airlines flying it, Ethiopian airline has vowed to be the last airline that will fly it, after the entire world has tried and tested it”, he added.

He did not mince words in answering the 20 questions we had selected. He intelligently, provided answers to them and threw more light on their plans to put Ethiopian airlines on limelight in global air transport.

“ET has always been having vision 2010, 2020, and now we are scaling it to vision 2035, right from next year, another 15 years horizon for strategic planning. Long term planning requires fleet, HR, facility, you have to plan appropriate type of fleet, when and how to place order, our long term planning has been at the root of our success.

“Ethiopian airlines annual revenue is about $4.5 billion together with all the airline’s group, it’s about $5 billion revenue per annum. But we are projecting it at the end of vision 2025, we want to be a $10 billion company, and after 10 years, we want to double our revenue”, he revealed.

Hailu, who intermittently mentions some cities like Ibadan, Oyo and Abeokuta in Ogun state, reminiscence of his stay in Nigeria and good interaction with people, disclosed that African governments need to work together to achieve a common aim of taking their traffic back from the clogs of foreign airlines, as encapsulated in the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM), noting that this is one of the reasons ET is aggressively opening up African markets by helping countries establish carriers.

“So, all of these put together, we have only 20 percent, we need to attack that 80 percent, 80 should be for African airlines, 20 percent should be non-African airlines, because that is our continent, that is our traffic, for more African carriers to come, the traffic which is not in the hands of African airlines is much more, so we have a lot  more to play with, it is not as if we are going to scramble for that 20 percent, we won’t settle for that same 20 percent, we want to contribute more than 3 percent to global air traffic and that is the reason Ethiopian airline going to African countries to help establish regional African national carriers”.

Hailu, who  joined Ethiopian airline in 1991,  has served the airline for 27 years in different Senior Management positions including Expert Flight Performance and Yield Analysis, Manager Revenue Management and Central Reservations Control, Area Manager Greece & the Balkans, Country Manager Nigeria, Director for Germany and Central Europe and Vice President Ethiopian Cargo, Senior Vice President Global Sales.

A Chief Commercial Officer, and MD Ethiopian International Services the position he holds since October 01, 2013, he is holder of Master’s Degree in Business Administration MBA from The Open University in UK, and BSc. Degree in Mathematics from Addis Ababa University. He is married and a father of two children.

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