The photo taken on October 12, 2017 shows a Ethiopian Airlines plane from Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. (Xinhua / Michael Tewelde)
Ethiopian Airlines (ET) launched three weekly direct weekly flights between the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa and the capital of Somalia, Mogadishu, after a 41-year break, adding momentum to boost bilateral economic relations.
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 broader optimism in the Horn region of Africa and came after Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed made a state visit to Somalia in June in an attempt to increase the political and economic ties between the two nations.
Speaking at the inauguration ceremony at Bole Addis Ababa International Airport, Abdullahi Mohammed Warfa, Deputy Head of Mission at the Somali Embassy in Ethiopia, said the resumption of the flight would help connect the large Somali diaspora to his homeland.
"We want to ask Ethiopia to continue supporting on the one hand and to continue to connect people in Mogadishu and the rest of Somalia by connecting them to other destinations in the world," Warfa said.
Warfa also said he had a personal reason to celebrate the resumption of direct flights between Addis Ababa and Mogadishu, as the new flight path significantly reduces the air time he had to bear to travel between the two cities.
"When I came to Addis Ababa in Mogadishu, I had to go through Nairobi or Djibouti 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 relieved and I will go in less than two hours, thanks, Ethiopian Airlines."
Warfa's experience was shared by Ali Adem Mohammed, Ethiopian vice president of Somalia, who said he hoped that cargo flights would be added soon, supplementing passenger flights already launched.
"This flight will continue to deepen the connection between the Ethiopians and the Somali people, I hope that in the next ET step, cargo flights will begin on the top of passenger flights," Mohammed said.
The executive director of the Ethiopian Airlines group, Tewolde GebreMariam, highlighted the historical nature of the resumption of Addis Abeba-Mogadishu flights and its potential economic benefits.
"Today is a wonderful day to resume a direct flight between Addis Ababa and Mogadishu after 40 years, today is a historic day. Commercial, investment and tourism links between Ethiopia and Somalia have been challenged by the lack of adequate air connectivity" , he said .
"The resumption of air services will promote tourism, trade and investment relations between Ethiopia and Somalia, as well as the promotion of cross-border investment and people-to-people relations," he said.
GebreMariam told Xinhua that Ethiopian Airlines is also planning to launch freight flights to Mogadishu in order to facilitate the export of seas to the rest of the world, especially in China.
"We have seen how exports of marine food from Madagascar and Comoros through Addis Ababa International Airport to China have increased their economies, Somalia will join this scheme soon," he said.
Already in October, Ethiopian Airlines launched a freight service from the Norwegian capital Oslo to Guangzhou in southern China, transporting Norwegian food products twice a week to Chinese customers.