In the latest renewed effort to make Eritrea an ‘aviation doorway’ to Africa and the capital Asmara ‘heart of regional flights’, the Eritrean flag carrier, ‘Eritrean Airlines’, together with the privately-owned partner airline, ‘Nasair Eritrea’, aggressively started introducing a number of new services to several African, Middle Eastern and European destinations.
The Eritrean Airlines, with its new Airbus A320, Boing 767 ( wide-body, 217-seater), and six Dornier aircrafts has re-launched itself anew on 16 July 2011, under a new Pakistani administration, to have direct flight services to six countries, namely Sudan, Egypt, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Italy and the United Arab Emirates.
The CEO of Eritrean Airlines, Mr. Shakil Aftab Kashmirwala, stated that the airline will introduce a third plane by October of this year so that it will service flights to Frankfurt, Nairobi, Johannesburg, as well as increasing direct flights to Jeddah, Karachi, and Lagos.
He also disclosed that the airline has plans at this moment in time to have its own modern fleet by considering at different options starting from the Airbus A320s to Airbus A330s as well as the new Boeing 737 and other wide body aircrafts.
Nasair Eritrea, on the other hand, with its three Boeing 737-200 planes has already commenced international flights to Dubai, Jeddah, Khartoum and Nairobi as of April this year. Last year, the airline was in talk to purchase a larger Boeing 737-400 planes to provide flights to Europe and other distant locations.
In addition to the already established destinations, Nasair Eritrea has started to publicize the launch of its new direct flights to Uganda, Mali, Chad, and Benin in addition to providing charter flights to Europe and domestic flights to the port cities of Massawa and Assab.
With less than four months since re-launching, these Eritrean airliners have covered a total of well over two dozen destinations across Africa, the Middle East and Europe with the potential to add more new flights in the immediate near future.
To help achieve this goal, CEO Aftab stated that a multi-million dollar construction project of a new passenger terminal is about to begin in Asmara.
“We will also build our own passenger terminal for there is a need to have a new passenger terminal to sustain the sixth freedom traffic and to make Eritrea a get way to Africa,” Mr. Aftab added.
The Eritrean government has shown unreserved determination to realize this national project to its intended goal by allocating a substantial budget and support. Prior to the arrival of the first re-branded airbus A320 plane to Asmara, the Eritrean government has accused the US government of undermining the work plans of the airline by obstructing the purchase and lease of the passenger planes.
The Government was saying that the US administration, as part of its hostile attempts of stiffening anti-Eritrea sanctions, tried to apply different pressure techniques on companies that sell and lease passenger planes to Eritrea under the pretext of “the planes could be used for military purposes”.
Noting that Eritrea possesses a unique quality of geographical positioning, in addition to the favorable climate and hospitable people, Mr. Shakil Aftab stressed that the desired goal of making Eritrea the gateway to Africa is indeed reachable irrespective of the challenges ahead of it.