Airline industry struggles after year-long unrest
“Air transportation in Yemen has shrunk by 40 percent since last year as a result of political unrest and the discovery of some explosive-laden packages,” Minster of Transportation Waed Batheeb said.
The problem, according to Abdullah Al-Ansi, an air transportation sector deputy, was aggravated by the arrest of Nigerian student Omar Farook Abdulmatlib, an Al-Qaeda-linked extremist, found with explosive packages while on a flight from Yemen to Dubai, and eventually to the United States.
Al-Anisi said, “Yemen was responsible for the incident, though we also suffer from these terrorist acts.”
Mustafa Nasr, chairman of the Economic Studies Media Center, said the Nigerian national's terrorist plot, in addition to other terrorist attacks Yemen has recently witnessed, have negatively impacted the industry. He said the situation will worsen if the terrorist attempts continue.
Sana'a-London flight still not operating
The British government canceled all flights to Sana'a following Abdulmatlib’s arrest. As a result, Yemen’s air transportation losses doubled. Al-Ansi said additional security, safety and air navigation standards have been implemented since the attack; however, the inability to detect explosives in Yemeni airports has had negative consequences.
Al-Ansi confirmed that Yemen’s minister of transportation met with the British transportation authority in his May visit to England to discuss plans to reopen flights between the two countries.
“We look forward to hosting a British safety inspection committee who will verify safety procedures,” Al-Ansi said. “We hope to see daily flights resume.”
Amro Yaqoob, an employee of Al-Alamia Tourist Agency, said transport companies' profits have declined.
“Foreign countries including the U.S., France and the U.K., no longer accept any package or letter from Yemen weighing more than 200 grams.”
Yaqoob explained that Al-Alamia’s income has been limited, and they have been forced to shut down offices in Al-Makala and in Seiyon.
He said the agency's hotel in Marib was closed. Their Al-Hawta hotel in Hadramout is also expected to close, for the number of visitors has steadily declined since 2011’s political unrest.
Basil Zwkari, Al-Alamia’s public relations, said the embargo on air shipments is ongoing and even includes personal letters.
In response, the General Authority for Civil Aviation has imposed conditions on businessmen working in the air shipment sector.
Khalid Al-Kuhlani, an air transportation manager, said companies should enact strict protocols regarding the safety and security of shipments.
The political crisis has also negatively effected the industry. Airlines have eliminated dozens of flights, with some discontinuing operations in Yemen completely, according to Al-Kuhlani. He listed flights from Ethiopia, Qatar and Saudi Arabia as examples.
Nasr said last year's fighting in Sana’a’s Al-Hasba neighborhood delayed many flights and cancelled some. Dozens of flights were axed, and thousands of travelers either could not leave or could not enter Yemen
He said the airport was shut down by Mohammed Saleh Al-Ahmar, the former air force commander, when he defied President Abdu-Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s decree to replace him with another commander.
Khalid Al-Mahbashi, the information unit manager at Yemenia Airways, said it was difficult for airlines to determine flight timelines and many had to be transferred to airports in Aden, Al-Hodeida or Al-Mukalla.
Yemenia Airways’ headquarters in Sana’a were destroyed last year, resulting in the loss of equipment and documents. The company lost approximately $80 million and was forced to lay off 1,000 employees. Management moved to the Hadda area of Sana’a, leading to confusion and, ultimately, cancellations and delays of many flights, further straining the airline’s finances.
Al-Hubaishi said the airline is currently exploring new strategies to revive its operations.
Economic sectors are interdependent, and deterioration in one sector will influence others, said Ahmed Shamakh, an economist, adding that tourism is similar to a national economy with regard to interdependence.
Shamakh said there are indirect losses, such as the dwindling of investment in the tourism sector and choosing destinations outside Yemen because of terrorism, kidnappings, piracy and military confrontations.
He said the economic situation will not improve unless the government takes action to lift the economy out of recession and to combat corruption.
Persuading airlines to resume flights
Al-Kuhlani said that the aviation authority in Yemen contacted its counterparts in foreign countries to hold meetings on operating flights to from the country. He said all of Yemen's airports are ready to receive passengers.
In May, flydubai resumed working in Yemen. Air Arabia plans to start offering flights next month.