Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – Despite being a source of pride for many within and outside Ethiopian Airlines, beneath the rosy picture lays tension. Many of its staff, from pilots to cabin crew and ground technicians, as well as support teams, continue to complain that they are “overworked and underpaid”. The management, under the stewardship of Tewelde Weldemariam, chief executive officer (CEO) for over four years now, has been criticised for being stubborn, disregarding and dismissive of its employees’ plights.
Many say they do not like his management style, which borders on micromanagement. He is blamed for creating an “exclusive club” within the top tier of management, excluding experienced workers who have served for decades. His alleged obsession with the company and sense of insecurity of failure makes others feel rejected and unwanted. Many see in him a person who has risen to power only to act in impunity. Tewelde does not like those who challenge and criticise him and this has resulted in alleged harsh retaliation.
His management is also under fire for its alleged failings in navigating through the phenomenal growth the airline is experiencing, thus exposing it it to deteriorations in passenger safety and quality of services.
Tewelde, a man who grew up in the airline since completing high school, believes he is not in a popularity contest; he has a mission to accomplish. Questioning the accuracy and motives of the sources these allegations and criticisms come from, he argues employees are all that matter to him, while he would like to see himself judged rather by the numbers the company has recorded since his rise to the helm. Indeed, the numbers are very impressive. Ethiopian Airlines actually has a higher credit rating, in the eyes of international financiers, than the country that owns it, according to an observer.
Ethiopia’s national flag carrier has grown spectacularly over the past 10 years, more so than the first 60 years of its history. Ethiopian Airlines is now an international company with 2.3 billion dollars in revenue, of which 228 million dollars was recorded as a profit during 2013. Such a feat is achieved on a continent lacking infrastructure and common aviation policy, while its governments impose heavy tax on the industry and favour non-African airlines over indigenous ones.
Flying to over 80 destinations across the world, with a fleet of more than 60 aircrafts, Ethiopian is today the 37th largest airline in the world in terms of revenue, and 18th biggest in terms of profit, according to the IATA, an industry association. No doubt, for a company that hails from one of the poorest nations on earth, these results are unmatched by any domestic company, while highly competitive in the global market. Under his watch, Ethiopian has joined the Star Alliance – a network of 28 airlines reaching 1269 airports in 190 countries, and membership to which requires meeting international standards.
Surpassing its own ambitions in Vision 2010, the Ethiopian Airlines management is now more ambitious in making the airline a 10 billion dollar company in little over a decade, flying 18 million passengers with 120 aircrafts from and to 90 destinations; and providing jobs for 17,000 people – more than double its size today.
In a frank and candid interview Tewelde has with Tamrat G. Giorgis, managing editor, he attributes these accomplishments to the hard work and dedication he describes as exceptional in Ethiopian’s 7,000 employees.
Read more at: Addis Fortune