Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde Gebremariam Retires, Replaced by Ato Girma Wake

Air Insight Group
by Wole Shadare | Mar 23, 2022 He is one of those people you wouldn’t look at twice if you passed him in the street unless you were returning one of his infectious grins. Modest, respectful, and quietly spoken but when he says something; it carries weight, substance, and direction. Africa’s biggest airline by profit and fleet size, Ethiopian Airlines shocked the continent’s aviation industry when it announced the retirement of its legendary Group CEO Tewolde GebreMariam.

Safe hands

GebreMariam was the face of Ethiopian Airlines because of the phenomenal success he achieved cementing the airline’s status as a global brand. Despite significant setbacks to the global aviation industry, Ethiopian Airlines continues to grow. Ethiopian Airlines couldn’t have been in safer hands during the pandemic than those of the group chief executive officer. The former CEO requested early retirement, citing his personal health issues as the reasons for his decision.

Remarkable success

GebreMariam requested early retirement from the Board of Management of Ethiopian Airlines Group (the “Board”), in order for him to focus his attention on his medical treatment. He has been under medical treatment in the USA for the last six months. The Board, in its ordinary meeting held on Wednesday, March 23, 2022, accepted his request for early retirement.

GebreMariam led the airline for over a decade with remarkable success reflected in its exceptional performance in all parameters including exponential growth from $1Bn annual turn-over to $4.5Bn, fleet growth from 33 to 130, and from 3 million passengers to 12 million passengers (pre-COVID).

Under his leadership, the airline group grew fourfold in all measurements, building more than $700 million worth of vital infrastructures like Africa’s biggest hotel, Cargo terminal, Maintenance Repair Overhaul (MRO) hangars, shops, Aviation, and Full Flight Simulators.

The carrier, in a statement, said, “The Board, the senior management, employees and the whole Ethiopian Airlines family express their gratefulness for his contribution and wish him a full recovery soon.  The Board will announce the new Group CEO and the successor to Ato Tewolde GebreMariam shortly”.

 New appointment

Former CEO of Ethiopian Airlines, Ato Girma Wake recently was appointed as Chairman of the Board of Management of Ethiopian Airlines Group by the Ethiopian Public Enterprises Holding & Administration Agency. The carrier further stated that Wake is a highly experienced, successful, and well-regarded business leader and a well-known figure in the aviation industry who previously led Ethiopian Airlines for seven years as a CEO and laid the foundation for fast and profitable growth of the airline. The combination of his experience, work culture, and drive make him capable of chairing the board and taking the airline to the next level. Wake’s decision-making skills are tested and well proved.


GebreMariam began his career in 1985 as a transportation agent. He worked his way through the ranks until he landed the top job in 2011. Ethiopian was a fairly small company for the first 60 years but over the last 15 years, it’s been revolutionized and has arguably proved itself the most adept airline in the world during coronavirus.

GebreMariam recently told AirInsight, “We launched Vision 2025. Then, we had 34 airplanes, now we have 130. Our revenue was around $1.3 billion, it is now more than $4.5billion. We flew to fewer than 60 international destinations in 2011. Now, we have 127. This is not common in the industry”.

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3 thoughts on “Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde Gebremariam Retires, Replaced by Ato Girma Wake”

  1. Subject: “Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde Gebremariam Retires, Replaced by Ato Girma Wake” Air Insight Group, Mar 23, 2022

    Humble Commentary
    There is always an end to everything, regardless of the subject matter.
    It is the norm of NATURE that we, HUMANS, can NEVER change.
    That natural fact is our solace to keep our dignity to the last farewell.
    Or, attempt to fight NATURE to absurdity and be temporary existing — not even crawling living.
    It is the ‘no-choice’ that we are granted, by mysterious NATURE.
    “C’est la Vie”, so goes the eternal French expression.
    Having said all the above, it is human dignity to express good will to Mr. Tewolde Gebremariam in his future Life of Endeavour.
    THE END.

    Post Script
    The last seemingly concluding five words of the News Item are intriguing, just ‘hanging’ !!!

  2. Obbo Tewolde is one of the best business executives that country ever produced. I want to give this dear countryman a shout out to wish him the best in his retirement years. I am 100% sure that there are boatloads of airlines out there that are salivating to get hold of his ingenuity. I will always be very proud of Obbo Tewolde as I have been fanatically proud of the airline since the day I for the first time saw one of its DC planes at the airport in the former British Protectorate of Aden more than 60 years ago.

  3. Some background.
    Shortly after entering Addis in 1991 Tplf took over Ethiopian Airlines (EAL) governing body by appointing Seye Abraha as board chair. Seye never run a kebele souk or even a state agency less a global corporation. Guess what? The Airline took a nosedive. Seye was replaced by another Tplf Mesfin Seyoum. Seye and his comrades started taking business courses provided by Open U and the British Library. Tplf knew EAL was a cash cow for its long range plan of accumulating wealth for the future Tigray Republic. Getting the Airline going by all means necessary became a matter of great urgency. Girma Wake was called back from Dubai Airline to steer the Airline back on course. Girma did what was needed and more by putting in place a 15-year plan. Guess what? Mesfin Seyoum/Tplf pushed out Girma into “retirement” and brought in the now retiring Tplf Tewolde. Not kidding. You may check the story if you so wish. Girma Wake was immediately hired by Rwanda Airline.

    Tplf Tewolde of course was a longtime employee of the Airline. EAL has a tested and established manual of operation. And a seasoned crew at every level. In other words, Tewolde was not going it alone, as the writer above seemed to suggest. Tewolde did alter hiring practice in that staff at every level (especially in sensitive departments) was disproportionately Tigrayan. Please check the facts if you so wish. But one thing is also certain. No one can take away from Tewolde his fantastic leadership during Covid pandemic; absent that, EAL would have been severely damaged if not bankrupted as did many many businesses in the world!

    EAL in all its history was known for its high productivity and for being a truly Ethiopian institution. Not after Tplf/Tewolde. So for whatever reason Tewolde has taken “early retirement” the return of Girma Wake is only fitting if EAL is to remain stable and profitable. I congratulate the Board and Abiy Admin for remaining calm after Tplf disrupted the order of governance in the hope of creating economic, political, security chaos in our country.

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