Travelers are now more likely to pass through Addis Ababa’s Bole International Airport when connecting to destinations in Africa than any other gateway thanks to a number of factors that have made it easier and more attractive to do so.

The Ethiopian hub has taken the crown from Dubai International, which has for many years been the most common connecting point to the African continent. Africa’s largest and fastest growing carrier, Ethiopian Airlines, is helping to grow Addis Ababa through targeted expansion in its long-haul and regional network.

The airline is a surprisingly modern carrier. Despite being founded in 1946 its fleet today comprises three of the most modern airliner types — the Airbus A350, Boeing 737 MAX and 787 Dreamliner.

The range of the A350 and 787 in particular have allowed it to stretch its network further afield, with new destinations including Sao Paulo, Moscow, Dublin and Manchester. Having such types on its routes also proves attractive to passengers and business travelers.

Speaking at the recent launch of its four-times weekly link to Manchester, Ethiopian Airlines’ Group CEO Tewolde Gebremariam said much of the airline’s recent success and well regard in the industry is down to the “right business model at the right time.” He added “We are very cost-conscious, and are not just an airline — covering cargo, catering, hotels and an aviation academy as well.”

As airlines like South African Airways and Kenya Airways struggle, Ethiopian is bucking the trend even in a country which has taken time to overcome off the difficulties of its past.

Recent political reforms and relaxed travel rules introduced by Ethiopia’s new prime minister make it easier to apply for visas online, which has seen an upswing of international passengers between November 2018 and January 2019 of some 40 percent compared to last year. Transfers to Africa through Addis Ababa also jumped 85 percent between 2013 and 2017, compared to Dubai’s 31 percent.

Bole International airport itself has invested heavily to ensure it is a fitting entry and transit point, especially when the government is encouraging business investment in Ethiopia from Europe and China in particular.

Taking the opportunity to shake off the reputation held by many African airports as being difficult to use, with poor facilities, Bole’s recent upgrades have brought it to the standard of other modern hubs.

A recent expansion of the passenger terminal started in 2015 recently handled its first passengers and will be officially launched in early 2019. It makes it the biggest airport in Africa, increasing capacity to 22 million passengers per year, adding an eastern wing to the terminal, with more gates and parking stands for aircraft.

The $345 million terminal development incorporates smart technology to help manage passenger throughflow, gather data insights and reduce costs, provided by Honeywell.

Tewdros Dawit, CEO of Ethiopian Airports, said: “Through our expansion project at Bole International, we are creating one of Africa’s smartest and most innovative air travel hubs, which will utilize a range of technologies such as those from Honeywell to increase our capacity and meet the evolving needs of our airlines and their passengers.”

These crucial reforms and developments, and the positive business growth of the national airline, mean Addis Ababa is poised to become a major world airport and entry point to the vast continent of Africa for many travelers in coming years.