By Asma al-Mohattwari
Conflicts, lawlessness, along with the ongoing assassinations, and the Houthis control of Sana’a have all forced some airlines to announce the suspension of their flights to Sana’a. Emirates, Etihad, Fly Dubai, Saudi Airlines and Jordanian airlines all have suspended their flights to Yemen; the suspension is primarily a commercial decision,but the major one is political. The latest dramatic actions that happened in Yemen have caused damage to the airline industry and travel agencies who are classified the most losserres of the airlines business suspension.
Mazan al-Shibani, Marketing Director of Universal Group Yemen, said that the airlines withdrawal from Yemen is an industrial decision comes as a result of the large risks on their investment. Al-Shibani added that the fear is that the suspension of other new airlines will isolate Yemen, reduce the volume of imports and exports, and restrict the movement of businessmen, diplomats experts and students. “More importantly it effects the air shipping through DHL, FedEx and Aramex which relay on the airlines,” he added.
According to Al-Shibani, the recent suspension of Jordanian Airlines is a very dangerous indicator as it is one of the oldest flights to Yemen, beginning in 1985. “This will badly effect the reputation of Yemen and will give it a negative impression to the rest of the airlines that Sana’a Airport is unsecure destination.”
Al-Shibani claimed that the suspension of Jordanian Airlines will not only affect medical tourism like how many think, but it will also effect the flights to the other part of the worl. Most Yemenis prefer to travel with Jordanian Airlines because Yemenia airlines doesn’t cover as large destination as the Jordanian Airlines.”
Al-Shibani said that Yemenia Airlines has a big problem in expansion and improvement and any profits generated will go to pay its debt. “Yemenia airlines has only six planes and all are full so it can’t get any benefit from the suspension because the operational capability is very small. Development of the civil aviation is a government decision and such decision is difficult to be taken at this time,” Al-Shibani added.
Mohammed al-Miekhlafi, The commercial manager of Yemenia Airlines said that, despite the curren political Yemenia still progressing and it managed to pay back 80% of its debt.
Yemenia is scheduling it’s fleet according to the best commercial interests of the head management. The major problem Yemenia is with the government Orgs who keep holding the airline due amount, and if they pay that money everything will be ok. “More than one billion dollars is owed to the government. Once this paid, Yemenia will increase the operational capacity of the airlines,”al-Miekhlafi concludes.
There are fears of Turkish Airlines suspending operations, the only European airline flying to Sana’a. Hassan Ba-Shamakh of Turkish airlines said that as of now there are no thoughts on holding Turkish Airlines in Yemen. Turkish Airlines Flys six days a week between Istanbul, Sana’a and Aden. Despite the closure of the Turkish embassy in Sana’a, the Turkish Airlines still committed to continue it is regular operation to Yemen.
Few airlines still operate to Yemen like, Qatari, Turkish, Gulf Air,Egypt Air and Flydubai Flys to Aden only upto now . In September 2014, some airlines suspended their flights to Sana’a as a result of the activity of Houthi armed militants who attacked Sana’a Airport on September 21st, 2014. Houthis stopped Fly Dubai aircraft 20 minutes after landing and they banned Yemeni aircraft from flying to Bombay on that day. As a result of that, Emirates, Etihad Airlines, Qatar Air, Turkish Airlines, Gulf Air, Jordanian Airlines and Egypt Air announced the suspension of their flights to Sana’a. Four airlines have resumed flying to Sana’a including Turkish Airlines, Jordanian Air, Gulf Air, and Egypt Air, including the regular operation of local airlines Yemenia and Felix Airways who remain operative. Emirates Airlines, Etihad Airlines, and Fly Dubai extended their suspensions. Saudi Air suspended flights to Sana’a one week before the Houthi takeover the airport. On the third day, Turkish Airlines decided to fly to Aden rather than Sana’a to avoid the same fate as Fly Dubai. This action by the Houthis has caused damage to the airline industry and travel agencies in Yemen who complain of losing their business.