By Kaleyesus Bekele
Ethiopian Airlines affiliate airline in west Africa, ASKY Airlines’, operation is seriously affected by the spread of Ebola virus disease (EVD).
The Lome, Togo-based private airline, ASKY, operates in 22 destinations in West and Central Africa. The pan-African airline operates in the region most affected by the Ebola pandemic at the moment.
Following the outbreak of EVD, ASKY has canceled flights to Conakry, Guinea, Monrovia, Liberia and Freetown, Sierra Leon. The airline has also suspended flights to Abuja and Lagos for about ten days last September. The airline recommenced operation to Conakry as of December 1. It hopes to resume flights to more destinations soon.
In a written response to The Reporter CEO of ASKY, Yissehak Zewoldi said that the airline has taken all the necessary measures recommended by the World Health Organization and local civil aviation authority.
“A list of measures were put in place to safeguard the safety of our passengers and crew. Some of the measures are: we created airline wide awareness and precautionary measures to take: we put sanitary items on our aircraft, we regularly fumigate our aircraft, we clear passengers before boarding, we have put two thermometers and special protective gears on board each aircraft, gloves and protective masks for flying crew and ground staff, etc,” Yissehak said.
The spread of the pandemic in West Africa has reduced both passenger and cargo traffic of the airline. Speaking of the negative impacts the pandemic inflicted on ASKY, Yissehak said, “Our operation is based in the most EVD affected region, so both passenger and cargo traffic have sharply declined.”
The CEO said all airlines, travel agents and hotels, among others have been affected by lack of passenger movements. “So ASKY is no exception. Yes, there is some financial impact but we at ASKY view this not as a long-term problem but rather a challenge that we should overcome. We are seeing very encouraging signs that the government of the three most affected countries and the international community at large are pulling their resources together to contain the EVD,” he added.
Ethiopian Airlines Group CEO, Tewolde Gebremariam, recently said that his airlines is losing eight million dollars in sales revenue every month due to the EVD. Tewolde said that media reports about the pandemic is scaring away passengers from Africa. At the 46th annual general assembly of the African Airlines Association (AFRAA) held last November in Algiers, Algeria, Tewolde said that many people outside Africa consider Africa as one country and South Africa as its capital. “Though the epicenter of Ebola is in West Africa, thousands of miles away from us many are scared to travel to the whole of Africa.”
The secretary general of AFRAA, Elijah Chingosho (PhD), said it is science not fear that should guide African nations. “We should tackle the problem together scientifically. We should not isolate the affected countries,” Chingosho said. WHO and IATA called up on international airlines not to stop flights to the region affected by Ebola.
The Togo-based private airline became operational in 2010. ASKY currently operates seven aircraft to 22 destinations in West and Central Africa. The airline was established by West African banks and private investors. Ethiopian owns a 45 percent stake in the airline. Ethiopian has also a five year management contact with ASKY. It also provides technical services to the West African airline.
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