Ethiopian, Eritrean airspace opens after 20 years

Photo: TesfaNews

The Ethiopian Civil Aviation Authority (ECAA) on Friday, July 13 partially opened the Ethio-Eritrean airspace that has been closed for any air transport for the past 20 years.

When the Ethio-Eritrean border war broke out in May 1998 the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) closed the Ethio-Eritrean airspace upon the request of ECAA. Ethiopian Airlines performed its last commercial flight to the Eritrean capital, Asmara on May 13, 1998. Since then, the airspace has been a no-fly zone.

During Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s two-day official visit to Asmara recently, the two countries signed several agreements, including the resumption of air and land transport.

Accordingly, Ethiopian Airlines announced the resumption of scheduled passenger flights to the Eritrean capital.

Ethiopian Airlines is set to perform its inaugural flight to Asmara on July 18 with the ultra-modern Boeing B787 Dreamliner aircraft. The airlines has requested the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and ECAA to open the closed airspace for commercial operations.

Col. Wossenyeleh Hunegnaw, director general of ECAA, told the media that after due consultation with ICAO and the Eritrean Civil Aviation Authority, the Ethio-Eritrean airspace has been partially opened for air transport operation as of Friday, July 13.

The authority issued a notice to all international aviation authorities.

Wossenyeleh said the air route that links Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa directly with Asmara via Mekelle is now opened for commercial flight.

“There are about five air routes which were closed for the last twenty years. For the time being, we have opened the air route that starts from Kenya, passes through Addis Ababa-Mekelle to Asmara. The remaining air routes will be opened shortly after the necessary preparation works are done,” he said.

ECAA wrote a letter to ICAO and got a green light to open the air route. ECAA officials – for the first time in 20 years– communicated with their Eritrean counterparts on Thursday.

It is not only Ethiopian Airlines that use the Ethio-Eritrean airspace. Many international airlines and private jets use the air routes to fly to and from Europe and the Middle East.

Ethiopian Airlines used to fly to the Middle East and Europe crossing the Eritrean airspace. When the war broke out it was compelled to change air routes via Sudan and Djibouti. This has increased flight time and fuel consumption.

When the airspace is fully open, Ethiopian Airlines will be able to use the old routes and reduce flight time and fuel consumption. Other international airlines will also be able to use the airspace. ECAA will also collect navigation fees from the international flights that cross the airspace.

Source: TesfaNews