Ethiopian Airlines, Africa’s champion carrier that suffered a fatal Boeing 737 Max crash in March, is ”moving forward” with its expansion following the disaster but will be the last operator to return the jet to service.

The Addis Ababa-based airline is optimistic it can ‘scale up’ its ambitious growth plans as the carrier’s business model remains strong and demand for air links between China and Africa continues to rise, Tewolde GebreMariam, chief executive of Ethiopian Airlines, told The National on Sunday, on the sidelines of a global airlines meeting in Seoul.

“We are already moving forward, business is good, the brand is strong and we’re still the leading connector of Africa to the world,” he said. “The growth is going to continue and we’re even scaling up. I’m very confident.”

Ethiopian Airlines suffered the loss of one of its Max jets in a deadly crash in March, the second fatal incident involving the plane model after Indonesia’s Lion Air jet plunged into the Java sea in October, leading to a global grounding of the aircraft. The dual disasters rocked the aviation industry, leading to multiple regulatory and criminal investigations and developing into one of the worst crises for Boeing in its 103-year history. Ethiopian Airlines is Africa’s biggest aviation success story, in contrast to a regional industry suffering from financial losses and poor safety standards.

“The business model is still strong, it’s a very wise strategy and the growth in the continent still continues,” Mr GebreMariam said. “Everything is still in order.”

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Photo Above: Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde Gebremariam  Photo by Christopher Pike / The National