DALLAS – According to Maltese media, bilateral talks are underway to allow Ethiopian Airlines (ET) to fly from its hub in Addis Ababa (ADD) to the United States via Malta (MLA).
Following a meeting between Maltese Prime Minister Robert Abela and his Ethiopian counterpart Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali, it was announced that negotiations had moved a step closer to allowing ET to acquire landing rights at MLA.
There is a high demand for connectivity between Ethiopia and the United States due to a sizable diaspora of expatriate Ethiopians, many of whom live in the Washington area. ET, arguably Africa’s most dominant carrier, uses ADD as a hub to connect Africa to the rest of the world, and the airline is rumored to be interested in expanding to additional US destinations. Atlanta (ATL) will be the airline’s fifth passenger destination in the United States, following Chicago (ORD), Newark (EWR), New York (JFK), and Washington (IAD).
The Ethiopian carrier is unable to fly nonstop across the Atlantic from ADD due to the high elevation affecting takeoff performance and must plan a technical stop en route to refuel. At the moment, its flagship route to IAD is via Dublin (DUB), and the new Atlanta route will stop in Lomé (LFW). Although, in the case of DUB, ET has not been granted traffic rights to accept passengers for travel from DUB.
Malta International Airport’s location along the great circle route between Ethiopia and the United States, combined with the facility’s relatively small size, makes it a potentially appealing location for the carrier to plan a refueling stop for future flights across the Atlantic.
Due to the high elevation affecting takeoff performance, ET is unable to fly nonstop across the Atlantic from ADD and must plan a technical stop en route to refuel. Currently, its flagship route to IAD is via Dublin (DUB), and the new Atlanta route will stop in Lomé (LFW). Long-distance routes are served by variants of the Boeing 777, 787, and Airbus A350 families.
The Ethiopian government announced plans in 2014 for a new airport to replace the current facility in Addis Ababa, but no construction plans have been announced, and the project is currently dormant.
The new facility is expected to be located 40 kilometers from the city and at a lower elevation than the current airport. However, it remains to be seen whether this will negate the current refueling stop, which is only performed on westbound flights.
Featured image: Ethiopian Airlines ET-ASG Boeing 787-8 KIAH. Photo: Brad Tisdel/Airways