Eritrean Airlines: Time to Celebrate!
In a tumultuous year like 2004, Diaspora Eritreans have worked very hard to shoulder their share of national responsibilities in fields of their expertise. On the basis of my recent visit to Eritrea, I observed many good developments have resulted from our hard work and dedication.
Today, there is a lot more to be done in Eritrea, but at the end of the year, it is important to pause and reflect on our successes and share them with each other.
In the field of aviation, the Eritrean people have air services they deserve. To a casual observer, these services may seem simple, but for aviation professionals they are milestone in the history of the nation. In less than two years, Eritrean Airlines (“Eritrean”) has become a prime example to many African airline executives as discussed at the African Airlines Association’s 36th. Annual General Assembly, in Dakar, Senegal on 6-7 December 2004.
Mr. Roland H. Moore, an aviation attorney from Miami who represents several African airlines, including South African Airways said,“ On the sidelines, Eritrean Airlines and Kenyan Airways were the two hot topics discussed at the Dakar Conference”. Mr. Moore who attended the conference for few days added, that there is something he calls the “Eritrean Experience” and shares it with other African airline executives at different conferences and meetings. Some of the frequently mentioned topics in his discussions are about the airline’s aircraft acquisition team and negotiation delegates. According to him the acquisition team’s knowledge of the market is too advanced and it’s out of Africa. The team challenges institutions like Lehman Brothers, the powerhouse in global finance and purchased a good aircraft from them at a price no one can refuse. The acquisition and maintenance teams were able to reject a low bidder maintenance contract awarded to Avbone of Miami by Lehman, in favor of GAMCO, a firm based in Dubai. These are hard scores achieved in foreign territories, which are not common in the experiences of most other African airlines.
The “African Aviation Journal” of October 2004 was distributed at the Dakar Conference. GAMCO published an article in that issue featuring Eritrean Airlines as its major African customer and provided a summary of the airline’s achievements.
In July 2004, Eritrean had won the hearts and minds of several European travelers who where stranded in Rome, Nairobi and Mombassa, after East African Air Safari was band from Italy’s airspace. The Nation, a newspaper in Kenya published a favorable account about Eritrean Airline’s aggressive market penetration. The newspaper indicated that Eritrean was the sole beneficiary of the demise of Air Safari. The Venice- based, Italy’s third-largest low-cost carrier, Volare stood to the challenges of Eritrean on that market, but not for long. On November 21, 2004, Volare went belly up, leaving a fleet of 21 aircraft behind and it will not be around to compete next season.
Eritrean did not directly participate at the Dakar Conference, but the above indicated events and other unpublished records gave the airline a favorable recognition as “the airline on the rise”. At this time of the year, I first salute the customers particularly from Europe for patronizing the national carrier. Second, I admire and appreciate the spirit and dedication of the flight crew, maintenance and management team for an outstanding safety records and satisfactory on time performance throughout the year. Please don’t lose your spirit and dedication for we have higher mountains to climb, when we penetrate the trans-African markets.
Africans are still traveling all the way to Europe in order to visit the next African state or two. The challenges for Eritrean Airlines in 2005 are to provide inter-African air services and reduce the unnecessary travel time and expenses of flying to Europe. Develop tourist air route to the Red Sea basin.
In summary, I wish everyone a Happy New Year 2005! Let’s celebrate and dace the night away, the Eritrean way. All the way on board Eritrean Airway, now serving Manchester (England)- Jeddah –Asmara, just like the highway.
With best wishes
“Herui” Abebe Tecle