All four planes are in the air right now, though they have quite some distance.
4 (!) x @flyethiopian Boeing 777's returning to Addis from New Orleans.
Anyone know who/what these repatriation flight were for? pic.twitter.com/myyoOeiS26
— Ian Cox (@IanECox) April 5, 2020
The way that all of these planes positioned to New Orleans sure is interesting:
- ET-ANO flew from Addis Ababa to Stockholm to Oslo to Washington to New Orleans; the flight from Addis Ababa to Stockholm to Oslo was a regularly scheduled one, then the plane flew through Washington for a crew change
- ET-ANP flew from Addis Ababa to Lome to New Orleans; I believe this was purely a repositioning flight, without any passengers
- ET-ANQ flew from Addis Ababa to Frankfurt to Chicago to New Orleans; the flight from Addis Ababa to Frankfurt was a regularly scheduled one, then the plane flew through Chicago for a crew change
- ET-ANR flew from Addis Ababa to Dublin to Washington to New Orleans; the flight from Addis Ababa to Dublin to Washington was a regularly scheduled one, then the plane had a crew change before continuing to New Orleans
Are the logistics of that fascinating, or what?! I’ve gotta give it to Ethiopian Airlines — they’re positioning these planes pretty efficiently, as three of the four planes operated scheduled flights to position to New Orleans.
Why is Ethiopian Airlines flying to New Orleans?
So, why are four Ethiopian Airlines 777s flying from New Orleans to Addis Ababa today? The airport confirms on Twitter that Ethiopian Airlines is carrying Carnival Cruise crew members back home, after ships docked in New Orleans, Galveston, and Mobile.
Since most crew members are from the Philippines, presumably there will be connecting charter flights from Addis Ababa to Manila.
This is exactly the same story as what happened in Miami with the Ethiopian Airlines planes.
When cruise lines initially stopped service, most cruise lines just left their crew members onboard, so that they could restart service ASAP (given that most crew members live on the opposite side of the globe). However, with it increasingly seeming like cruises won’t resume in the next couple of weeks, it would appear that they’re now sending many crew members home.
Ethiopian’s 777-200LRs each have the capacity for 315 passengers, so that means that up to 1,260 passengers can be carried on these charters.
Ethiopian Airlines sure is getting creative with the charter flights that they’re operating, which I assume is good for their business. They seem to be working closely with the cruise industry to get crew members back home.
Frankly I’m surprised that this is somehow the most practical charter option. You’d think there would be other much more efficient charter operations, given the positioning required for US airports, not to mention that most employees still have to get from Addis Ababa to Manila.
Surely it would be more profitable for US airlines to operate these charters flights than to operate virtually empty flights otherwise?