A chartered Ethiopian Airlines flight destined for Hargeisa, seat of the Somaliland government, was forced to turn back without landing today as tensions between Mogadishu and Addis Ababa continue to mount.
Commercial flights from Ethiopia to Somalia and Somaliland, however, are operating regularly, Mesfin Tassew, CEO of the Ethiopian Airlines Group, told The Reporter.
“Chartered flights basically have to get approval every time [they fly],” Mesfin said. “They denied approval for an Ethiopian chartered flight today, but regular flights continued unhindered.”
The aircraft forced to turn back by Somali authorities today was reportedly carrying senior Ethiopian officials. Flightradar24, a real-time tracking application, also confirms flight ET372 turned back from Hargeisa after departing Addis, but does not indicate that the plane landed.
Sources at the Ethiopian Civil Aviation Authority disclosed to The Reporter there are reasons to believe that Somali authorities are considering closing the country’s airspace to Ethiopian aircraft.
“The fuel costs will rise if Ethiopian flights have to use alternative routes to Asia and the Middle East,” said the source.
The aviation incident follows fierce disapproval from Mogadishu over a land lease deal signed between Ethiopia and breakaway Somaliland. Top Ethiopian officials are reportedly expected to visit Hargeisa over the coming week.
Selamawit Mengesha and Nardos Yoseph contributed to this story.