Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde Gebremariam steps down

One of Africa’s most influential airline executives has taken early retirement as he undergoes medical treatment.


Image : Michael Tewelde/AFP

Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde Gebremariam has taken early retirement in order to focus on medical treatment. 

According to a statement by the flag carrier, Gebremariam has been under medical treatment in the US for the last six months, and is unable to oversee “a duty which demands closer presence and full attention round the clock”. 

Tewolde led the airline for over a decade as it rapidly expanded its fleet and routes to become the largest carrier in Africa.  

Prior to the pandemic, the fleet grew from 33 airplanes to 130 airplanes and from 3m passengers to 12m passengers. During Covid-19, plunging passenger numbers led Gebremariam to focus on converting passenger planes to air freight services in a bid to keep the airline’s fleet in the air.  

“Mr. Tewolde led the airline for over a decade with remarkable success reflected in its exceptional performance in all parameters including but not limited to exponential growth from $1bn annual turn-over to $4.5 billion. Under his leadership, the airline group has grown by four fold in all measurements,” a statement from the state-owned airline said. 

Tewolde also led the company through the difficult aftermath of the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crash in March 2019. The crash of the Boeing 737 Max shortly after takeoff from Addis Ababa Bole International Airport killed all 157 people on board. In a legal agreement with families of the victims, aircraft manufacturer Boeing admitted full responsibility for the crash.


The board has announced that Grebremariam will be replaced by former chief operating officer Mesfin Tasew Bekele. 

Mesfin has 38 years of experience in airline management and operations in aircraft maintenance and engineering, procurement, information technology, flight operations, capability development, capacity building, development of corporate strategies, airline operation management, and corporate leadership, the firm says.  

Mesfin has been serving as a chief executive officer of ASKY Airlines since 2021. He previously served as chief operating officer of Ethiopian Airlines from 2010 to 2021. 

Prior to that he served as vice-president of maintenance and engineering from 2006 to 2010 and chief information officer from 1998 to 2006. Before that he held management roles in engineering divisions.  

“I am honoured and humbled to be appointed as the Chief Executive Officer of Ethiopian Airlines Group which I have been serving for nearly four decades in various positions. My new role gives me the opportunity to carry on with the fast and profitable growth of our beloved airline and take it to the next level,” said Mesfin. 

The hiring process was overseen by recently appointed chairman and former CEO Girma Wake. 

“We believe that Mr Mesfin will lead the airline to an even greater success, keeping it on the right track that will see it grow through many generations to come…. We are also thankful for the remarkable contributions of the former Group CEO,” Wake said.  

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