Ethiopian Airlines’ Chief Executive Officer Tewolde Gebremariam was either unequivocally supportive or a master manipulator of words in recent statements about Boeing.
Addressing the two-week mark since the crash of ET 302, Gebremariam stated:
Let me be clear: Ethiopian Airlines believes in Boeing. They have been a partner of ours for many years. More than two-thirds of our fleet is Boeing. We were the first African airline to fly the 767, 757, 777-200LR, and we were the second nation in the world (after Japan) to take delivery of the 787 Dreamliner. Less than a month ago, we took delivery of yet another new two 737 cargo planes…Despite the tragedy, Boeing and Ethiopian Airlines will continue to be linked well into the future.
He later added:
We resolve to work with Boeing and others to use this tragedy to make the skies safer for the world.
You can read the full statement here.
First, let me put on my legal hat. The plain language of Gebremariam’s remarks suggests that Ethiopian and Boeing will remain close partners, even if the ET 302 investigation concludes that Boeing is at fault for the crash.
But the language conveniently leaves plenty of wiggle room, doesn’t it?
“Let me be clear: Ethiopian Airlines believes in Boeing,” can mean a couple of things. Sure, it can meet that Ethiopian does not doubt Boeing. But it could also mean something as innocuous as Ethiopian believes that Boeing exists.
When Gebremariam says, “Despite the tragedy, Boeing and Ethiopian Airlines will continue to be linked well into the future,” he doesn’t actually say how they will be linked. It could just be via a lawsuit…
Now I actually don’t think that is what was meant; I do not think weasel words were intended. But I cannot help but to admire the careful wording of the statement and note that it actually means very little.
Gebremariam also mentioned something I was not aware of it: TWA helped to build Ethiopian Airlines:
We also are proud of our association with U.S. aviation. The general public does not know that Ethiopian Airlines was founded in 1945 with help from Trans World Airlines (TWA). In the early years, our pilots, flight crews, mechanics and managers were actually employees of TWA.
If anything, this suggests a loyalty to the USA which will factor into long-term, strategic decisions concerning Boeing.
Maybe I’m the only one, but I appreciated Gebremariam’s statement for how long it took to say very little in the area of concrete assurances about Boeing. But Gebremariam is smart to hedge his bets.