Spurred by Ethiopia's air travel expansion efforts and public policy reforms, Addis Ababa is now the leading transit hub for long-haul passengers to sub-Saharan Africa.
Addis Ababa airport has increased the number of international transfer passengers to the region for five years in a row, and this year became the top transfer hub for long-haul travel to the Sub-Saharan Africa, ForwardKeys, a Spanish travel consultancy, said on Wednesday.
The firm analysed data from travel booking systems, which record an average of 17 million flight bookings a day, to determine the number of long-haul transfers to the region via Addis Ababa and found the number had surged 85 per cent from 2013 to 2017.
So far this year, Addis Ababa's traffic growth is 18 per cent.
Ethopia has now passed Dubai, the world's busiest airport by international traffic and the third-busiest by passenger traffic, as the lead gateway to sub-Saharan Africa. Dubai remains the premier hub transiting passengers between East and West and is the home of Emirates Airline. Those travelling to Africa from Asia or Europe most often connect through Dubai.
Ethiopian Airlines, the largest aviation group in Africa, has just past the midpoint of its 15-year strategy to build market share on routes to and from Africa – a plan that is starting to bear results.
The airline is also introducing new African routes to rapidly expand and target lucrative Asian markets, according to Reuters.
ForwardKeys also credited the steady increase in bookings via Addis Ababa in part to a positive international response to the broad reforms introduced by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who came to power in April and has transformed politics in the Horn of Africa country of around 105 million people.
It cited two reforms in particular: allowing visitors to apply for visas online; and Mr Ahmed's commitment to opening Ethiopia's largely state-controlled economy to foreign investment.
After Mr Ahmed made peace with Eritrea to end a two-decade state of war, Ethiopian resumed flights to its neighbour in July. This month, it relaunched flights to Somalia's capital after four decades, according to Reuters.
The rise of travel to and from Addis Ababa shows no signs of letting up. International bookings via Ethiopia are up 40 per cent year-on-year for November to January 2019, ahead of all other destinations in Africa, ForwardKeys said.