“Asia and particularly China is our focus. This is our biggest market,” CEO Tewolde Gebremariam told AFP.
The Addis Ababa-based company already has flights to Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Guangzhou.
Now the airline is training Chinese crews for its China-bound flights, because “90 percent of passengers flying to China don’t speak English”.
“They don’t understand the safety instructions,” Gebremariam said, adding that they needed teams that speak their language and “understand their culture”.
Some 30 young Chinese recruits are completing their training at the Ethiopian Airlines aviation academy.
“I chose Ethiopian Airlines because I want an international experience,” said He Xupeng, who left a Chinese company back home to join the African air carrier.
China has invested heavily in major construction projects in Africa, one of the latest being sub-Saharan Africa’s first modern tramway, a $475-million scheme largely funded by China’s Exim bank that opened last month in the Ethiopian capital.
Beijing sees Africa as a key source of natural resources and raw materials and even built the $200 million African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa in 2012 as a gift expressing “friendship to the African people”.
Because of China’s ever-expanding investments across the continent, the Chinese community has grown steadily in Africa, as has the market for flights to and from Asia.