Long-time Ethiopian Airlines CEO Gebremariam steps down over health concerns

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After a decade at the helm, Ethiopian Airlines Group chief executive Tewolde Gebremariam will be stepping down from his position as head of the group to enter early retirement. 

The airline said in a statement that Gebremariam requested early retirement to focus his full attention on medical treatment. 

“Mr. Tewolde Gebremariam has been under medical treatment in the USA for the last six months,” said the airline. 

“As he needs to focus on his personal health issues, he is unable to continue leading the airline as a Group CEO, a duty which demands closer presence and full attention round the clock,” added the airline. 

Under Gebremariam, Ethiopian Airlines boosted its turnover, passenger numbers and fleet, becoming one of the few major international carriers from the African continent. Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, Ethiopian Airlines was one of the few carriers in the world to turn a profit in 2020 and 2022. 

“We are cash-positive. We are profitable,” said Gebremariam in early January 2022 during a Dubai conference via video link. 

During his 11-year tenure as Group CEO, the airline’s annual turnover grew to $4.5 billion from $1 billion   – the largest of any airline in Africa – and its fleet increased from 33 airplanes to 130 airplanes comprising Airbus, Boeing, and Bombardier aircraft.  

In the same period the airline’s annual passenger numbers increased from 3 million passengers to 12 million passengers (pre-COVID), while Ethiopian Airlines serves up to 100 international destinations and 21 domestic destinations. 

Gebremariam’s career with Ethiopian Airlines began in 1985 as a Transportation Agent. He went on to hold senior leadership positions in different business sectors of the Airline which include Ethiopian Cargo, Area Offices and Sales & Marketing. 

In January 2011, Gebremariam was appointed as Group CEO of Ethiopian Airlines – a position he went on to hold for 11 years. 

“Under his leadership, the airline group has grown by four-fold in all measurements building more than $700 million worth of vital infrastructure like Africa’s biggest hotel, Cargo terminal, MRO hangars and shops, Aviation Academy and Full Flight Simulators,” said the statement. “The Board, the Senior Management, employees and the whole Ethiopian Airlines family express their gratefulness for his contribution and wish him full recovery soon,” added the airline. 

The airline said it plans to announce a new chief executive “shortly”. Meanwhile, it also recently appointed Girma Wake, former CEO of Ethiopian Airlines to the position of chairman of the management board.

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