Business and travel between Ethiopia and Somalia is expected to get a further boost with the planned resumption of direct commercial flights between the two capitals, Addis Ababa and Mogadishu after a 41-year break.
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Addis-based National Airways of Ethiopia, the largest private airline in the country and the second largest after state-owned national carrier Ethiopian Airlines, has announced 3 weekly scheduled flights to the Somali capital starting this Wednesday.
This development comes at a time when Ethiopia’s new government under Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed is sending signals of opening up the country’s economic space and allowing more private enterprises in key sectors.
Direct commercial flights between Addis and Mogadishu ceased following the 1977 war between Somalia and Ethiopia over territorial disputes, disrupting direct travel between the two capitals.
“The demand for travel between Addis and Mogadishu is high and we seek to satisfy that demand and help enhance the economic opportunities between the two countries,” said Hussein Hosh, the airline’s Operational Manager in a statement ahead of the maiden flight.
He added: “Ethiopia and Somalia have a long history of business ties. We hope the new flights will deepen commercial ties for the benefit of both countries and the people.”
The new flights are expected to ease travel between the two cities that are the focal points of business in the two countries and spur commercial activities.
Somalia’s capital is a growing magnet for business as it gradually recovers from decades of civil war and an ongoing conflict with militant groups. On its part, Ethiopia's economy is the largest and fastest-growing in the region with Addis being the center of the country’s economic activities.
“Apart from business travelers, the flights to Mogadishu and other cities in the region will benefit many people who travel for medical and educational reasons or to connect to other destinations,” said Mr. Hosh.
“We plan to start with passenger flights but soon after, we will also start offering cargo flights to meet the significant demand for the service.”
The new flights are part of expansion plans of the airline that has been operating domestic flights in Ethiopia since 2007. Previously, the airline was called Air Ethiopia.
The airline also recently launched flights to cities of Bosasso and Garowe in Somalia’s Puntland region as well as Hargeisa, the capital of the breakaway region of Somaliland.
The new flights are expected to provide more options to travelers from Somalia seeking to connect to other international destinations. Currently, they rely on flights to Nairobi, Kenya’s capital before connecting to various routes.
The airline also plans to begin scheduled flights to Eritrea, Dubai in United Arab Emirates, Oman and Saudi Arabia among other destinations.
The private airline operates a fleet of aircrafts including six Embraer 145 with plans to purchase 737-800 Embraer 190.
Unlike other countries in the region, the private airline industry in Ethiopia is still at its infancy stage but analysts expect rapid growth in the coming years.