With the re-opening of Egal airport, serving the aspiring country’s ‘capital’, Hargeisa, Somaliland is aiming for new carriers and destinations.
Somaliland, an autonomous region of Somalia that seeks recognition as a sovereign state, expects shortly to launch new routes from its Hargeisa and Berbera airports.
On September 1, Ethiopian Airlines inaugurated a B737 service to Hargeisa airport’s newly extended 2.4km runway.
Kenya Airways is now poised to launch flights to Nairobi, said Ahmed Dalal Farah, director general of the Ministry of Civil Aviation and Air Transport.
“Kenya Airlines has approved to open a direct route from Nairobi to Hargeisa, subject to commissioning teams coming in two weeks to assess the runway, safety and security concerns, as per the requirement of their company and KLM as the international partner,” he told Routes News.
“We are confident that Egal Airport will pass this test, as we did the same process for Ethiopian Airlines operating between Hargeisa and Addis Ababa.”
At the end of August, Egal International Airport completed an overhaul largely funded by the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development.
Hargeisa’s runway will now be extended by a further 1.6km, while Berbera Airport will be ungraded with a new terminal, 16km of security fencing and improved screening and baggage facilities, said Farah.
“Air Arabia have approached us with an interest in making our Berbera International Airport a commercial hub for destinations to western Africa,” he said.
“The business negotiation is still continuing and hopefully may materialise in the first quarter of 2014.”
Yemen Airways is interested in opening flights between Aden/Sana’a and Berbera/Egal, he added.
South African Airways is keen on a stopover in either Egal or Berbera for its flights between Johannesburg and Dubai, he said.
“They have done marketing of the large Somali communities living in South Africa,” said Farah.
“We did not pursue the interest since Egal International Airport was under construction, but in the coming year we have plans to recommence the discussion.”
Somaliland’s efforts to improve its air links have been boosted by an agreement with the Federal Government of Somalia, which should lead to an internationally recognised joint committee controlling Somaliland’s airspace.
Farah also sees several economic drivers for new routes and frequencies.
These include: businesspeople from the Middle East trading with China via Dubai; Nairobi-based humanitarian and development professionals working in Somalia and Somaliland; summer visits from the Somali diaspora; and Hajj travel to Mecca and Medina.
“Future potential drivers will be the growing trade cooperation with Ethiopia using Berbera Port for importing 30% of their national import,” added Farah.
But aviation also has a strategic role in Somaliland’s long-running pursuit of sovereign status, he said.
“The existing two international airports of Somaliland played a critical role in providing access for our political leaders… at times of lobbying,” he said.
Somaliland’s local government declared independence from Somalia in 1991 but the autonomous region is still campaigning for international bodies to recognise its nationhood.
The region’s current air services include Jubba Airways flights from Hargeisa to Djibouti and Mogadishu.
From Berbera, African Express, Daallo Airlines, Jubba Airways and Ethiopian Airlines services offering links with the UAE, Ethiopia, Somalia and Saudi Arabia.