12/21/1945: Ethiopian Airlines Is Founded

From humble beginnings in 1945, Ethiopian Airlines has grown to become the largest airline in Africa in recent years.



December 21, 2023

DALLAS — Today in Aviation, Ethiopian Airlines (ET) was founded in 1945. The carrier was established following the liberation of Ethiopia in 1941.

Emperor Haile Selassie I planned to modernize the country. One of his first steps was to set up an airline with the help of the United States, the United Kingdom, and France.

With Trans World Airlines (TWA) on hand to offer its expertise, operations commenced on April 8, 1946, from Addis Ababa-Asmara-Cairo. The US government had provided the airline with five surplus Douglas C-47 Skytrains.

Its first international flights began in 1951 after two Convair CV-240s joined the fleet. Douglas DC-6s followed in 1956, and this allowed for further expansion. ET entered the jet age when it received a pair of Boeing 720Bs in December 1962.

The airline started operations with five surplus Douglas C-47 Skytrains. Photo: Clinton Groves (GFDL 1.2 or GFDL 1.2), via Wikimedia Commons

Boom Times

In 1982, it became the first airline in Africa to order the Boeing 767. The type's arrival opened up new opportunities for the airline, with a swathe of new long-haul routes added to the network.

The 1990s and 2000s saw ET attempt to become an industry leader in African aviation. The plan was to make Addis Ababa Bole International Airport (ADD) a hub, grow passenger numbers, and modernize its fleet.

In February 2005, ET ordered Boeing 787 'Dreamliners' to become the African launch customer for the type and the second in the world to place the Dreamliner into service.

The flag carrier became a member of the Star Alliance on December 13, 2011. ET has become the fastest-growing and largest airline in Africa in recent years.

ET became the first airline in Africa to operate the Airbus A350. Photo: Tony Bordelais/Airways.

Featured Image: Ethiopian Boeing 787-8. Photo: Brad Tisdel/Airways