With the charismatic Dawit Lemma at the controls, Addis Ababa’s Krimson Aviation is really going places.
Addis Ababa-based Krimson Aviation is flying high. Since attaining one of the first business aviation licenses issued by the Ethiopian Civil Aviation Authority (ECAA) just under a year ago employee numbers have grown 80%, customer numbers have more than doubled, and the company continues launching innovative new services.
The licenses, required for any business that handles any part of the flight support spectrum, were limited, and aim to bolster aviation industry standards. This reflects the core philosophy for Krimson, spearheaded by the charismatic founder Dawit Lemma. A Swiss national, of Ethiopian heritage, Lemma and his team are setting the bar high in terms of service provision.
“We’ve worked incredibly hard since launch in 2015 and being awarded the license demonstrated that we have the necessary competencies, internal knowledge, and professionalism to enable civil aviation in Ethiopia and beyond. The criteria are very strict, and we fulfilled them by delivering Swiss service standards complemented by local knowledge,” explains Lemma. “The added benefit is that the license also gives international customers the confidence to work with us.”
Krimson offers full flight support, ground handling, charter brokerage and other aviation services. “We work with companies from around the globe but have seen a dramatic increase in clients from the Middle East who are signing us up as their East African representative. They recognise the value of working with a local company which understands the regulatory, cultural and business nuances. It makes their operations more efficient and gives their passengers a better experience,” adds Lemma.
This local knowledge is central to successful business operations in Africa and explains why Lemma’s business has added a further five local team members this year including a Chief Financial Officer. “There are a number of headwinds that any operator may face but my team has developed a core set of skills, a constantly expanding network and a deep regional knowledge that we are pleased to share with our clients.”
Business has been growing at a rapid rate for Krimson which during its first two years handled a princely sum of just 15 flights. The business is on course for handling more than 250 this year. Growth is being driven by an increase in business activity coupled with a reputation as a reliable local ground handler and trip planner. “We understand international operators, so we know what to anticipate in advance of their flights,” said Lemma, “as we fulfill these expectations new business is being generated by word of mouth. It’s important that we try to deliver a service that is consistent, reliable and of the highest quality.” Medevac operations have also stimulated growth. “We’ve handled some complicated flights around this subject and consequently operators are coming back to us.”
In addition, Addis Ababa is the head of the African Union which drives a significant amount of governmental flights in Africa. This coupled with the fact Ethiopia is currently the fastest growing African economy means commercial opportunities are attracting international business executives. “Eritrean airspace also opened up late last year and that has supported business growth with more customers seeking overfly permits through the east African corridor,” says Lemma.
However, there are still a few dark clouds on the operational horizon. “Sourcing permits is a continuous dilemma in Africa. There are as many ways to process overfly or landing paperwork, as there are nations and no two processes are the same. Some countries require simple online applications and take around an hour to be granted, others require extensive administrative information. It is improving but it remains a challenge.”
Lemma adds that lack of infrastructure is also problematic and while awareness of the need for dedicated business aviation facilities grows so does commercial air traffic resulting in congested airports where non-commercial airline traffic is given least priority as business aviation competes for slots, parking, fuel and services. “We are making progress though, and I’m optimistic as we move forward.”
The dynamic Lemma is also looking at developing a portfolio of services that interline with commercial aircraft. “We’ve recently begun to develop a concierge service for those flying business class with commercial airlines, including Ethiopian Airlines. We welcome passengers and seamlessly transfer them through the often hectic immigration and customs controls.” In recognition that for many international crews Addis Ababa is a first-time destination Krimson offers a similar concierge service for crew. “We find crew frequently ask us for advice on what to do and where to go so we like to give them more than just a recommendation. Addis is an amazing city; we are proud of it and want to help them enjoy the sights and sounds.
Looking to the future Lemma has his sights on further commercial innovation. “We are also in the middle of a very interesting project which will take us into new territory,” says Lemma with a knowing grin. Watch this space, Krimson is on the up.