By T. Roble
Regional aviation leaders Kenya Airways and Ethiopia Airlines are training their eyes on a new route-Mogadishu amid fast paced diplomatic engagements in the Horn of Africa and relative stability in Mogadishu.
Ethiopian Airlines, billed as the most profitable carrier in the continent announced last week resumption of flights to Mogadishu next month, the first in four decades. The carrier stopped its operations to Mogadishu at the height of tensions and outbreak of war between Somalia and Ethiopia in the late 1970s.
The government owned carrier said it would start with three flights a week to Mogadishu from November 2, sounding up beat of bright days ahead.
“Our flights will quickly grow to multiple daily flights given the huge volume of traffic between the two sisterly countries and the significant traffic between Somalia and the rest of the world,” Tewolde GebreMariam, Ethiopian Airlines’ chief executive, said in a statement last week.
The entry of Ethiopian Airlines will add to three the number of international carriers flying into Mogadishu. Others are Turkish Airlines which operates round the week and Djibouti Airlines which does three flights to Mogadishu a week.
Ethiopian Airlines which operates 116 routes globally has been on expansion mode in the recent years. It has acquired stake in Malawi Airlines and Zambia’s national airline. In addition, the carrier which posted $2.7 billion in revenue in the 2017/18 fiscal year aims to create a new airline in Mozambique that it will fully own, and is in talks with Chad, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea and Guinea to set up carriers through joint ventures.
Meanwhile reports from Nairobi indicate the national carrier Kenya Airways (KQ) which is jointly owned by the Kenyan government and the Anglo-Dutch airline group Air France-KLM, has expressed interest in exploring the Mogadishu route.
“Yes, we are looking at that possibility. Plans are still at infancy stage. It will require a lot of negotiations and procedures,’’ KQ chairman Michael Joseph said in a media interview this past week.
KQ which is making its comeback to profitability after recording over $250 billion losses consecutively in 2015/15 fiscal years has also been expanding its routes in the recent past. Perhaps one of its major moves in the direct flights to New York slated for October 28 close to a decade of negotiations with the US aviation authorities.
The carrier also launched direct flights to Cape Town South Africa in June in addition to Port Louis in Mauritius.
Talks between Kenya and Somalia ended a 10 year blockade of direct flights from Mogadishu to Nairobi last April. Nairobi shut out direct flights from Mogadishu in 2006 following security concerns and instead directed flights for clearance at Wajir Airport in the country’s north east before accessing Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.
The entry of KQ and Ethiopian Airlines is expected to further excite a route once shunned by international airlines over failing security. It is also expected to boost trade between the two countries and Mogadishu and in effect bridge the yawning trade gaps.
According to the Kenyan Economic Survey 2018, the East African nation exported goods worth $10.6 in 2017 with 90% of these being the leafy stimulant khat. Exports from Somalia to Kenya are too minimal to be captured, the report indicates. In 2017, Somalia rose to the third most popular destination for Kenyan merchandise.