File photo taken on Oct. 27, 2017 shows the first Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, capital of Ethiopia. (Photo: Xinhua)
Mihretab Teklay, Director of Integrated Marketing Communications at Ethiopian Airlines (ET) , is a person on a mission to further boost Ethiopia's robust aviation cooperation with China.
Speaking at an event sponsored by ET to celebrate the Chinese New Year in Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa on Tuesday evening, Teklay said Ethiopia already is connected with China in various areas.
"China is special for us as a country. And as an airline, we really appreciate the economic growth of China and also the financing that has been done for Ethiopia in different infrastructure development projects," he said.
"The Chinese and Ethiopian Airlines relationship is a big deal for us. We appreciate the Chinese customers for believing in our services for quite a lot of years," said Teklay.
"Recently, we've started coming with services that upgrade the relationship. We want to make Ethiopia the next home for Chinese," he further said.
Ethiopian Airlines now operates daily passenger flights from Addis Ababa to Guangzhou and Beijing, and three times per 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.
Tan Jian, Chinese ambassador to Ethiopia, on his part said China values its strategic cooperation with Ethiopia in the aviation sector due to Ethiopia Airlines' capacity to connect Africa with China.
"Ethiopian Airlines is the largest and best airlines in Africa, with China being the biggest market for Ethiopian Airlines. I believe there is great potential for deepening our cooperation and there is further room for improving ET's services to China," said Tan.
Tan emphasized Chinese aviation cooperation with Ethiopia goes beyond flight destinations. Chinese capital and expertise have also helped build several aviation related infrastructure projects.
In January 2019, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed inaugurated an expansion project at the Addis Ababa Bole International Airport, which was funded and built by China with a construction cost of around 363 million U.S. dollars.
The newly inaugurated terminal has an annual capacity of serving about 22 million passengers, which has consolidated Addis Ababa's position as the aviation hub in Africa.
In the same ceremony, Ahmed also inaugurated a Chinese-built hotel, which was constructed with about 65 million U.S. dollars.
Hosting the largest Chinese restaurant in Africa, a large conference hall and 373 guest rooms, the newly inaugurated Ethiopian Skylight Hotel is said to enable the airline to offer packaged tour and travel programs for tourists.