Ethiopia Fires Flight Operations VP over Hijacked Plane

ethiopian airlines: An institution where loyalty to ruling party pays off over competence
Ethiopian Airlines: An institution whereby loyalty to ruling party pays off over competence

By Abraha Belay,

Ethiopian Airlines has fired its Flight Operations VP, Captain Desta Zeru (ethnic Amhara), a veteran pilot who flew the first 787 Dreamliner from Boeing in the US to the Ethiopian capital in August 2012.

Captain Desta is believed to have been fired over the hijacking of a passenger aircraft in February by a co-pilot who landed the plane in Geneva and sought asylum there.

Airlines CEO Tewolde Gebremariam (ethnic Tigrai) has now appointed Captain Yohannes Hailemariam (ethnic Tigrai), a 30-year flight veteran. 

“Captain Yohannes is replacing Captain Desta Zeru, who left/resign/ the position of Vice-President for personal reasons but remains a line pilot with the airline,” the Airlines said in its press release.

Flight ET702 was hijacked on February 17 by co-pilot Hailemedhin Abera, 31, who pleaded with Swiss officials to grant him an asylum for fear of political persecution in his country.


The co-pilot, who is hailed as hero by Ethiopians for bringing to global attention to the brutal rule in Ethiopia, is still in police custody in Geneva and hasn’t been offered a chance to make any public statements.

The government, which at first tried to portray the pilot as ‘insane‘, has made it clear that it will work for his extradition.

CEO Tewolde is a ruling party member with vast powers, and is feared than respected for acting alone and often without mercy like his idol, the late Meles Zenawi.

Highly qualified professionals such as Marketing DGMs like Anteneh Mekonnen and Gobena Michael Emiru, a few among those who helped build the Airlines to what it is today, were made to ‘resign voluntarily‘ and disappear than face the wrath of Tewolde, internal sources indicate.

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