By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
December 4, 2016 (ADDIS ABABA) – Qatar Airways announced it was suspending all flights to Eritrea, two years after launching flights to the reclusive East African nation.
- Qatar Airways Boeing 777-300ER A7-BAE (Bangaloreaviation)
The company, on its website, said flights between Doha and Asmara are suspended from 4 December as a result of “operational requirements”.
The suspension, the airline entity added, would carry on until further notice.
It, however, clarified that its Asmara office would remain open till end of February next year in order to provide support and alternative travel options for travelers who booked flights after December 3.
“Our priority is of course our customers and we are ensuring that you are provided with additional support during this time and accommodated on the most convenient alternative journey,” reads part of the airline company’s statement.
Qatar Airways’ last flight QR1444 departed from the Eritrean capital on 3 December and the company has promised to offer full refunds for unused or cancelled tickets.
Qatar Airways started its twice every week flights to Asmara on December 4, 2014, nine months after launching flights to Djibouti.
Qatar had been mediating between Eritrea and Djibouti to resolve their border disputes.
After Qatar Airways announced resumption of flights to Djibouti in March 2014, Eritrea immediately requested the company to also resume flights to its territory.
Eritrea then argued that Qatar Airway’s flight resumption to Djibouti and not to Asmara would mean Doha was taking side with Djibouti in its mediation activities.
Qatar Airways was one of the four international airlines serving Eritrea. Currently, however, Turkish Airlines, Egypt Air and Fly Dubai are still operating in the country.
It was not clear if the said “operational requirements” are also affecting the other international airlines operating in the country.
Eritrea gained independence from Ethiopia in 1991 after over three decades of a bitter struggle.
According to opposition website, Gedab Newas, the regime in Asmara has allegedly failed to establish a stable airline to efficiently connect the country with the rest of the world.
Many startup airline businesses reportedly closed after opening due to interference by the ruling party’s business arm, which monopolizes the economy of the country.
The government’s previous attempts to effectively run the national carrier have failed due to mismanagement.
Several entrepreneurs who attempted to fill the void also failed due to interference and lack of efficient administration by the government.
In the past few years, several pilots, including those from the airforce and other professional in the airline industry have defected in protest to government ill-policy.
Eritrea is one of the most oppressive countries in the world and it has been dubbed by international right groups as the “North Korea of Africa”.