The tiny self-declared state of Somaliland has banned flydubai and Air Arabia from flying to its capital Hargeisa. This comes following an incident in March in which Somalia ordered aircraft on route to turn around.
According to aviation website CH-Aviation, a flydubai Boeing 737-800 operating as flight number FZ661 was en route from Dubai International Airport (DXB) to Hargeisa Egal International Airport (HGA) when it was asked to return to the United Arab Emirates.
Somalia asked flydubai flight to turn around
The incident involving aircraft registration number A6-FEV occurred on March 19 after the Somali Civil Aviation Authority (SCAA) demanded that the low-cost airline complies with a Somali government ban on international passenger flights. Since the incident, flydubai and Sharjah-based Air Arabia have stopped flying to the autonomous region of Somalia.
“We can confirm this did happen and we are maintaining an open dialogue with the relevant authorities,” a flydubai spokesperson told CH-Aviation in a statement. When Air Arabia was questioned why they were no longer flying to Somaliland, no comment was forthcoming regarding the matter.
According to reports coming out of the Somali capital, Mogadishu, carried by Hirraan News, the flydubai aircraft initially ignored the notice to airmen (NOTAM) sent by the SCAA and then later communication from air traffic control in Mogadishu.
Somalia was enforcing COVID-19 rules
In what Hirran calls ‘Somalia’s ability to control its airspace per ICAO rules,’ Somalia contacted the relevant UAE authorities who ordered the aircraft to turn around and return to Dubai. Hirraan goes on to say that the plane made a U-turn before entering Somali airspace. Along with flydubai and Air Arabia, Ethiopian Airways has also canceled all of its regularly scheduled flights to Hargeisa.
When we take a look to see why Somalia does not want flights going to Somaliland, it is to comply with a government directive halting all flights to Somalia in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. After having its airspace controlled by Kenya for 20 years after being declared a failed state, Somalia got control back in 2018.
What’s the deal between Somalia and Somaliland?
Somaliland is located on the southern coast of the Gulf of Aden bordered by Ethiopia, Somalia and Djibouti. In 1998, a crackdown on militants by the government in Mogadishu led to a civil war that left the country fractured. In 1991, when the government in Mogadishu disintegrated, leaders in Somaliland declared themselves independent, something which Mogadishu did not recognize and still does not today.
While operating as a self-proclaimed state, Somaliland is not recognized by any country or international organization. With a population of around four million people, of which 1.5 million live in the capital of Hargeisa, Somaliland is essential to Ethiopia as it gives the landlocked African nation access to the sea, something, it lost when Eritrea became an independent state in 1993.