(Reuters) - An Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737-800 plane with 90 people on board crashed into the sea shortly after taking off from Beirut en route to Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa on Monday.
Here are some key facts about Ethiopian Airlines.
* Ethiopian Airlines is a state-owned carrier and flies to 56 destinations, including 35 destinations in Africa — more than any other airline.
* Aviation experts say African airlines have a terrible safety record but Ethiopian Airlines has always been considered an exception with a solid history.
* None of the airline’s planes had crashed since 1996. That plane was hijacked en route to Nairobi from Addis Ababa. It ditched into the sea of the Comoros Islands when it ran out of fuel. Out of 175 passengers and crew on board, 123 were killed.
* The previous fatal crash was in 1988 when a domestic flight hit a flock of pigeons and crashed, killing 31 people.
* Ethiopian Airlines is an all-Boeing operator. It said in January it had ordered 10 Next-Generation 737-800s for $767 million, adding to the five 737-700s and two 737-800s it already operated.
* In 2009, the airline became the first African carrier to order and operate the ultra-long-range 777-200LR model. It was also the first African carrier to order the 787 Dreamliner, with 10 new planes ordered in 2005.
* The airline’s full-year net profit more than doubled to 1.3 billion Ethiopian birr ($128 million) in 2008/09 due to an aggressive international marketing campaign and cost-cutting.
* Chief Executive Officer Girma Wake told Reuters last week that if fuel prices did not rise, he expected net profit to increase to about $150 million net in 2009/10.
* The airline said it hopes to boost profits this year by taking advantage of growing ties between Africa and China and India, adding new routes to those Asian countries.
* Ethiopian Airlines operates 14 flights a week to Beijing and Guangzhou and 12 flights a week to New Delhi and Mumbai. CEO Girma said the airline is planning to add flights to Shanghai in China and Chennai and Bangalore in India.
* Ethiopian Airlines is one of a trio of African carriers, along with South African Airways and Kenya Airways, spearheading change in Africa’s growing airline industry with modern planes and better safety records.
* Ethiopians are fiercely proud of being home to one of Africa’s only profitable airlines and there is fierce competition for jobs at the airline.
* Revenues and profits have consistently risen for Ethiopian Airlines despite competition from wealthy, Gulf-based carriers such as Emirates which are expanding in the region and drawing pilots away from Africa airlines.
Reporting by Barry Malone; Editing by David Clarke and Louise Ireland