Somaliland: Ethiopian Airlines, Egal Airport, Ministry of Aviation and Stranded Passengers Saga

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Stranded pasengers want government intervention

• We want the Aviation minister to intervene and stop our misfortune-Stranded passengers

• We hereby inform that Ethiopian Airlines is entirely responsible for difficulties encountered by its passengers in Hargeisa-Ministry of aviation

• We suspended our flights because Egal airport does not meet our safety standards due to poor tarmac runway-Ethiopian airlines

By: Yusuf M Hasan

HARGEISA (Somalilandsun) – A large number of passengers are stranded in Hargeisa following the suspension of services by Ethiopian Airlines.

The stranded passengers some of whose flights were 10 days ago have decried the non-action by both the Somaliland ministry of aviation and Ethiopian airlines.

The missed flights saga of the passengers among them students who were on the way to Sudan to pursue high education curtsey of scholarships from Khartoum and Diaspora landers returning to their bases abroad is a subject of push and shove between the Somaliland aviation authorities and Ethiopian airlines.

The marooned passengers camped outside the offices of Safeway travel agency in Hargeisa want the government and the regional airliner to put their differences away and remedy their travel schedules in two shakes of a lamb’s tail.

“My return ticket has not only expired but my leave of absence from work in the UAE” said Ms Muna a mother of two who also informed that her kids are also missing out on school.

“My future is now uncertain having failed to comply with scholarship conditions” said master Abdilatif who is a beneficiary of a Sudanese university bursary that gave specific conditions on when to be in Khartoum for processing

A British Somalilander who claimed that he is sure to lose his job due to the travel delay urged the minister of aviation Mahmud Abdi Hashi whom he claimed to have been acquainted with in the UK to intervene and save the malady of the many stranded passengers.

The now without recourse travelers credit their calamity to the Somaliland ministry of aviation in which they demand action especially in lieu of the Airline having told them to travel to Jigjiga in Ethiopia where flights shall be duly facilitated

While the stuck passengers continue to suffer the culprits of their misfortunes namely the aviation ministry and Ethiopian airlines are engaged on a “You are to blame game”

The new and in dispute runway at Egal airport

The Ethiopian airlines attribute flight suspension to poor infrastructure at Egal International Airport which the airline says does not meet her safety standards especially due to poor tarmac runway.

The Hargeisa based international airport was reopened fortnight ago after year long rehabilitation and modernizing works with millions of funding from the people of Kuwait.

With an elongated runway that can accommodate big crafts, Ethiopian was the first to land a Boeing 737 on the 1st of September a flight that ensued after a safety check was approved by the airliner.

“Our initial assessment said that the upgrade met with our objectives but after further studies we have discovered that Egal airport does not meet our safety standards due to poor tarmac runway” says Ethiopian Airlines.

Ethiopian Airline at Egal airport September 1st

The government that squarely lays the blame of the stranded passenger’s saga on the regional airliner says diplomatic channels have been opened to resolve the stand-off.

A statement released by the protocol officer at the ministry of aviation Mr. Abdilahi Ahmed Arshey that informed on the ministry’s commitment to providing an enabling aviation and air transport environment urged Ethiopian Airlines to fulfill its contractual arrangements with its passengers.

Ministers Hashi and Waranade in Ethiopia for discussionsTo secure an end to the impasse the administration in Hargeisa has dispatched a two member negotiation team to Addis Ababa composed of the interior minister Ali Mohamed Waran’ade and Aviation minister Mahmud Abdi Hashi to open end of impasse dialogue with both Ethiopian government and airline officials.

While it is hoped that Ethiopian shall be enticed to resume its flights to the country the dispute between the aviation ministry and the airline is very divergent, only astute diplomatic negotiations skills and willingness for the two antagonists to give a little bit of ground shall enable end to the deadlock.

The deadlock leading to flights withdrawal emanate from:

• Ethiopian airlines insisting on return to utilizing Berbera Airport because of the poor upgrade made at Egal international Airport thence “would not risk its multi-millionaire aircraft nor the safety of its passengers”. The airline claims that the aviation minister is responsible for flights suspension and plight of stranded passengers having refused to accept the Return to Berbera option.

• The ministry of aviation insists that the upgrade made at Egal is as per specifications as proved by the initial safety standards assessment undertaken and approved by Ethiopian airlines thus the airline should stick to the initial findings and proceed with its flight operations.

As the “YOUR ARE TO BLAME” game and negotiations go on between the two antagonists the plight of the stranded passengers especially their jobs, education and future prospects remains uncertain.

In the meantime and despite all the fireworks of alleged ineptness being directed against the aviation ministry and its top honcho it is worth acknowledging that the minister Mahmud Abdi Hashi has during his two and a half years tenure supervised the modernization of the country’s airports especially Berbera and Egal which are almost to international standards.

Watch a clip of Royal Tv interviewing Stranded Passengers

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