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Ethiopian Airlines says U.S. travel ban causing confusion for passengers

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Ethiopian Airlines chief executive said on Tuesday that a U.S. order temporarily halting immigration from seven Muslim-majority states was creating confusion for passengers.

Tewolde Gebremariam told Reuters in Addis Ababa that although the directive was confusing, it was yet to have much impact overall on the operations of the airline.

“It is affecting air travel because people are nervous and confused. There is no clarity in the executive order,” Tewolde said.

“It has led to a few cancellations and refunds by Ethiopian Airlines to passengers.

“Operationally it has not created any disruption to us, either on our schedule or our customer service.”

An Ethiopian official said last week that nine Yemenis were deported from America on an Ethiopian Airlines flight after President Donald Trump’s travel ban for seven countries.

Yemen, which lies a short distance from Ethiopia and Somalia, which shares a land border are among the seven nations on the list whose citizens are affected by the ban.

He, however, said the airline’s revenue rose 10.3 per cent to 54.5 billion birr ($2.43 billion) in the 2015/16 fiscal year, while passenger numbers climbed 18 per cent to 7.6 million.

He said net profit was up 70 per cent at 6 billion birr.

He said 2015/16 produced record revenue and net profit but the airline still faced challenges, particularly in African states where foreign exchange shortages meant it could not repatriate earnings held in local currency.

He said the airline had local currency holdings worth $220 million in Nigeria, Angola, Sudan, Egypt and some other states.

According to him, this is losing value as the local currency depreciated, partly because lower oil prices had hit oil-producing economies.

“This is a huge challenge for us. We saw tremendous pressure on our revenue from these countries,” he said.

He added that the issue undermined benefits of an oil price fall during 2015/2016.

The state carrier is Sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest by revenue and has been rapidly expanding with regular plane orders in its bid to become a global player through its increasingly crowded hub in Addis Ababa.

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