Lately, we have seen airlines launch countless new flights. WOW Air has been adding flights like crazy. Hong Kong Airlines recently started flights to LAX. LATAM is planning on launching flights to Tel Aviv. Although most of the growth has been focused in what are so called “developed” countries, there have been signs of growth in other areas. For example, Rwandair is looking to start flights to the US. Also in Africa, the one of the continent’s most successful airlines is looking to expand its route network. Ethiopian Airlines is planning on adding flights to Chicago.


The Windy City

The first thing that comes to mind is where does Ethiopian fly right now. At the moment, they fly to Toronto, Washington Dulles, Newark and Los Angeles. Given the logistical difficulties of flying a plane at Addis Ababa’s high altitude, these flights all make a technical stop. The LAX flight stops in Dublin, where the airline can pick up passengers to the US. The Toronto and Dulles flights stop at DUB as well, but they do not have 5th Freedom rights. As for EWR, the airline flies from Addis to Lome in Togo to Newark. The airline does not have 5th freedom rights either. All of their US flights are operated by their new 787s.

All of these cities are Star Alliance hubs. Ethiopian can easily code share and connect passengers from Air Canada and United’s networks to Africa and beyond. This is why Chicago was a logical next step. With the airline picking up passengers from the US, it only makes sense for them to connect to hubs where they can funnel passengers in.

Ethiopian 777

Ethiopian 777

What to Expect

The airline will fly the route with their A350s or 787s. These have lie flat seats in a 2x2x2 configuration. They aren’t industry leading, but offer reasonable amenities. The airline expects the flight to take off in June 2018, which seems like a reasonable timeline. I have never flown Ethiopian, but I have heard mixed reviews. I consider them one of those airlines you need to try at least once in your life, for better or worse.

Ethiopian 787

Ethiopian 787

Landing Thoughts:

Ethiopian will likely launch these flights in their announced timeframe. What will be curious is where do they focus their technical stop. I would think they could connect from Lagos (Nigeria), which is a major regional financial hub. This would make even more sense, if the airline were looking to start flights to Houston (another United hub). They could connect the two major oil cities, a route that United dropped recently. This could give them strong access to West Africa via Lome and Lagos. Ethiopian has a strong competitive advantage and structure that could allow it to become Africa’s shining star carrier.


What do you think? Will Ethiopian launch flights to Chicago? What aircraft will they use? Where will they add next? Let us know!


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