ADDIS ABABA, Nov. 9 (Xinhua) — Ethiopia’s flag carrier Ethiopian Airlines (ET) on Friday launched thrice weekly direct passenger flights between Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa and Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, after 41 years break, adding momentum to increasing bilateral economic ties.
Direct flights between Ethiopia and Somalia were suspended shortly after the outbreak of the 1977-78 border war between the two nations.
The launch of commercial flights between Ethiopia and Somalia, also came amid wider optimism in the Horn of Africa region and came after Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed paid a state visit to Somalia in June, in a bid to boost political and economic ties between the two nations.
Speaking at the flight inaugural ceremony in Addis Ababa Bole International Airport, Abdullahi Mohammed Warfa, deputy head of Mission in Somalia embassy to Ethiopia, said the flight resumption would help connect the large Somali diaspora to its motherland.
“We would like to request Ethiopia to continue its support on one hand and to continue to connect our people who are in Mogadishu and the rest of Somalia, connecting them with other destinations in the world,” said Warfa.
Warfa also said he had a personal reason to celebrate the resumption of direct flights between Addis Ababa and Mogadishu, as the new flight route significantly cuts the air time he had to endure to travel between the two cities.
“When I was coming to Addis Ababa from Mogadishu, I used to go through Nairobi or Djibouti city or other places to come to Addis Ababa,” he said.
“It took four to five hours to come to Addis Ababa, but now it was made easy and I will go in less than two hours, thank you, Ethiopian Airlines.”
Warfa’s optimism was shared by Ali Adem Mohammed, Deputy Chairman of the Somalia community in Ethiopia, who said he hoped cargo flights will be added soon, supplementing the already launched passenger flights.
“This flight will further deepen the bond between Ethiopians and Somalians, I hope as next step ET will start cargo flights on top of the passenger flights,” said Mohammed.
Ethiopian Airlines Group CEO Tewolde GebreMariam, for his part emphasized the historical nature of the resumption of flights between Addis Ababa-Mogadishu and its potential economic benefits.
“Today, it’s a great day to restart a direct flight between Addis Ababa and Mogadishu after 40 years, today is a historical day. Trade, investment and tourism ties between Ethiopia and Somalia have been challenged by lack of adequate air connectivity,” he said.
“The resumption of air services will promote will promote tourism, trade relations and investment between Ethiopia and Somalia, as well promote cross border investment and people-to-people relations,” he further said.
GebreMariam told Xinhua that Ethiopian Airlines also plans to launch cargo flights to Mogadishu, with an eye to facilitate Somalia sea food exports to the rest of the world, China in particular.
“We have seen how sea food exports from the likes Madagascar and Comoros via our Addis Ababa International Airport to China has boosted their economies, Somalia will join this scheme soon,” he further said.
Already, Ethiopian Airlines in October launched a freighter service from Norwegian capital Oslo to Guangzhou in southern China, transporting twice a week Norwegian sea food products to Chinese customers.