“Listen more… talk less.” CEO Q&A – Meseret Tekalign, Country Manager Ethiopian Airlines Ireland

Business, CEO Q&A | Wed 19 Dec | Author – Business & Finance
Meseret Tekalign, Country Manager Ethiopian Airlines Ireland (Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland)

In our next CEO Q&A, Meseret Tekalign, Country Manager Ethiopian Airlines Ireland (Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland) speaks to us about biometrics, airspace management and providing leadership.

Q. What are your main priorities and goals in your role?

My primary goal is to grow the Ethiopian brand in the Irish market and increase our market share with growth in both passenger and cargo sales.

Q. What are your biggest challenges as CEO?

Time or lack of it! In the world of travel and aviation, things change very fast. For me the constant need to adapt to change while providing leadership to my team through those changes can mean the prioritizing of goals becomes a challenge.

Q. How do you keep your team/staff motivated?

It’s not uncommon within large organization for decisions to be made at HQ with minimal input from people on the front line and it can have adverse effects if not managed well locally. It’s why in our team meetings I encourage open dialogue so each member of the team can voice ideas or concerns they have and we work through them together.

Q. What are the challenges facing the industry going forward?

In the world of aviation numerous factors challenge our industry including escalating fuel prices, the dependence on technology and the obvious vulnerability when it fails particularly so to cyber crime and data breaches.

Q. What new trends are emerging in your industry?

The use of Biometrics such as facial recognition at airports and iris scanning is certainly going to redefine the passenger experience. While improving security it is also hoped it will help to ease airport congestion.

Although still in its infancy, we are going to see artificial intelligence play a major role in streamlining processes within the airline industry from the common customer queries right through to the check-in and more.

Q. As an employer are you finding any skills gaps in the market?

Since arriving into Ireland a little over a year ago to take up my role as Country Manager for Ethiopian, I have not found that to be an issue. My team, some who have been here since Ethiopian arrived into the market in 2015, and those who joined more recently, have all come with the experience and expertise we needed.

Q. Are there any major changes you would like to see in your sector?

We absolutely need better airspace management. A reduction in flight delays would improve the passenger experience and reduce the additional overhead costs the Airline incurs due to those delays.

Q. How did your strategy develop in the context of the banking crisis and economic crisis?

In 2010, back in the dark days of the global banking crisis, Ethiopian launched a growth plan called, ‘Vision 2025’ to become the most competitive and leading aviation group in Africa.

Since then Ethiopian has doubled capacity and opened up a trade lane between China, Africa and Brazil.

In 2010, we were the fourth largest airline in Africa, today we are the largest and have recorded a profit each year since then.

Q. How will Brexit affect you, or have you started to feel the effects already?

Operating as we do from Dublin to Africa, we are not seeing any impact to our business which could be linked to Brexit.

Q. How do you define success and what drives you to succeed?

Success from a work perspective is leading a team that is engaged and motivated and seeing our efforts bear fruit with the growth of the Ethiopian brand in the market.

On a more personal note, as a woman in business and mother to two little girls, I hope I can be a positive role model for them, and that I help grow their confidence so they never shy away from following their passion in life and career.

Q. What’s the best advice you’ve been given, or would give, in business?

Listen more…talk less, and where possible find a mentor who will help guide and develop you. And when the day comes, take on the role of mentor and help grow and develop others.

Q. What have been your highlights in business over the past year?

We’ve had a number of those including awards of a 4-star rating from SKYTRAX, TripAdvisor’s Traveller Choice Award for ‘Best Business Class in Africa’ and Selling Travel Magazine’s ‘Best Airline to Africa.’

We also launched our mobile app for Android and Apple users plus became the first airline in Africa to receive an A350 XWB simulator.

2018 also saw significant growth for Ethiopian in the Irish market with a 25% increase in sales recorded.

Q. What’s next for your company?

Globally it is continued expansion with new routes added to the network. Locally it’s about cementing and growing relationships with our trade partners, building on the business we have and looking for opportunities for further growth in the market.

Q. What opportunities or plans for growth do you see in 2019?

With the new route adjustment from Dublin we see it as an opportunity to further grow our passenger and cargo capacity to our core market of Africa and beyond.

Q. Where do you want your business/brand to be this time next year?

We have already achieved 80% of our ‘Vision 2025’ plan however, here in Ireland I want 2019 to be the year when the Ethiopian brand is firmly fixed in the psyche of the Irish travel buying public.

2018 also saw significant growth for Ethiopian in the Irish market with a 25% increase in sales recorded.