Page last updated at 17:31 GMT, Monday, 25 January 2010

Profile: Ethiopian Airlines

Unlike many African airlines, Ethiopian Airlines has a good safety record.

Ethiopian Airlines 737-800
Ethiopian Airlines only operates Boeing aircraft

The last time one of the airline's planes crashed was in 1996 when a Boeing 767 ran out of fuel after being hijacked while flying from Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa, to Nairobi in Kenya.

It ditched into the sea off the Comoros Islands, with the loss of 123 passengers and crew out of 175 people on board.

In 1988, an Ethiopian Airlines 737 struck a flock of pigeons after take-off in Bahar Dar, Ethiopia. Thirty-one people were killed when the plane crash-landed on returning to the airport.

The state-owned airline flies to more destinations in Africa than any other airline, making it a popular carrier in a continent where many airlines fly only from their home country to destinations outside Africa.

Free from politics

Along with South African and Kenya Airways, Ethiopian Airlines is widely considered to be among sub-Saharan Africa's best operators, but many passengers have complained of frequent delays.

One of Africa's few profitable airlines, it has recently added flights to China and India. The airline also planned to add flights to Shanghai, Madras (Chennai) and Bangalore, chief executive Girma Wake told Reuters news agency.

The airline uses mostly Boeing aircraft and announced earlier in January plans to buy 10 of the new 737-800 model at a cost of about $750m (£464m).

It was the first African airline to order the 787 Dreamliner and the long-range 777-200LR models.

It was founded in 1945 by Emperor Haile Selassie. Some say the emperor hoped that having a good quality national airline would help Ethiopia shake off its poverty-stricken image.

The airline remains 100%-owned by the Ethiopian government but it has generally been free from political interference.

The BBC's Uduak Amimo in Addis Ababa says that Ethiopian government officials pay for their flights on Ethiopian Airlines - unlike in other African countries whose national carriers have been bankrupted by officials and their cronies using them as their personal jets.

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