HOMECOMING

Aboard ET 312, the first commercial flight from Ethiopia to Eritrea in two decades

Heading home.
Heading home.
Image: REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri
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Ethiopian Airlines dubbed it the “bird of peace”: a brand new Boeing 787 Dreamliner carrying 315 people that crossed from Ethiopian into Eritrean airspace for the first time in this century.

The 85-minute-long commercial flight on Africa’s biggest airline was the crowning stroke of peace between the two nations, who have remained in a military and political standoff for decades. Resuming the daily flights from Addis Ababa to Asmara augurs a new era for families and friends who were divided for years.

All this was kickstarted last month when Ethiopia’s prime minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrean president Isaias Afwerki both agreed to cease hostilities, reopen borders and embassies, and promised to resume trade. The move was a marked turn for both countries and was welcomed not just across Africa but all over the world.

Pilots sit in the cockpit as they prepare the Ethiopian Airlines ET314 flight to Eritrea's capital Asmara at the Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia July 18, 2018.
The pilots are ready.
Image: Reuters/Tiksa Negeri
Ethiopian Airlines cabin crew pose for a photograph as they resume flights to Eritrea's capital Asmara at the Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia July 18, 2018.
Cabin crew has arrived for duty.
Image: Reuters/Kumera Gemechu

Yesterday (July 19), long-separated relatives, crying, smiling, sipping champagne and handing each other roses, greeted each other in Asmara’s airport. Due to demand, the airline sent a second flight within 15 minutes of the original flight leaving.

 

Passengers sing and dance inside an Ethiopian Airlines flight to Asmara international airport in Asmara, Eritrea July 18, 2018.
Singing and dancing.
Image: Reuters/Tiksa Negeri

Looking at the crowds that thronged Asmara International Airport, it was hard not to remember Abiy’s assertion last weekend, when he called on rival forces engaged in intractable conflicts in the continent to end their antagonism and make peace. “The reconciliation we are forging now is an example to people across Africa and beyond.”

Eritreans wait to welcome their families at Asmara International Airport aboard the Ethiopian Airlines ET314 flight in Asmara, Eritrea July 18, 2018.
Waiting for family and friends.
Image: Reuters/Tiksa Negeri
Senait Zaro, reacts as she meets her family for the first time in fifteen years, at Asmara International Airport, who arrived aboard the Ethiopian Airlines ET314 flight in Asmara, Eritrea July 18, 2018.
Senait Zaro, reacts as she meets her family for the first time in fifteen years, at Asmara International Airport.
Image: Reuters/Tiksa Negeri
Adisalem Abu, reacts as he embraces his twin daughters, after meeting them for the first time in eighteen years, at Asmara International Airport after the Ethiopian Airlines ET314 flight arrived in Asmara, Eritrea July 18, 2018.
Adisalem Abu reacts as he embraces his twin daughters, after meeting them for the first time in eighteen years.
Image: Reuters/Tiksa Negeri
Relatives embrace after meeting at Asmara International Airport, after one arrived aboard the Ethiopian Airlines ET314 flight in Asmara, Eritrea July 18, 2018.
Finally together.
Image: Reuters/Tiksa Negeri