Ethiopian Airlines and Widespread Pilfering

By Habtamu Kebede (March 15, 2024): Ethiopian Airlines is facing a significant increase in reports of pilfering, with a high number of incidents reported in the past few months. These incidents not only decrease customer trust and satisfaction, but also have the potential to greatly impact the airline’s financial stability and reputation. Despite this, the airline consistently shifts blame to external factors instead of taking responsibility and implementing measures to prevent pilfering.

Initially, the airline responded defensively and denied any wrongdoing or the reported widespread pilfering. This caused several victims, including supporters of Abiy Ahmed, to take their stories to social media and share their heartbreaking and depressing experiences. Many passengers reported that their luggage had been broken into and valuable items, such as jewelry, electronics, and cash, were missing. Additionally, others reported that their luggage had been stolen and the airline did not offer any reimbursement.

His Eminence Abune Petrose, the General Secretary of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church Holy Synod, was among the recent victims of the Ethiopian Airlines. During his trip to the United States, he reportedly paid 130,000 Ethiopian birr to ship his newly published book. However, upon arrival, he was informed by the airline staff that his luggage would be delayed and delivered to him later. Despite waiting for an extended period of time, there was no sign of his shipment. It is known that the luggage did not reach him during his visit, but it is unclear if he was eventually reimbursed. Most astonishingly, the Ethiopian Airlines had refused to confirm his return flight. Despite having round trip tickets, he had to book a flight with another airline to return to Ethiopia from the United States. Furthermore, when he attempted to return to Ethiopia, he was denied entry by immigration officials and was sent back from Bole International Airport. Additionally, his mobile phone contact information and laptop data were inexplicably erased by the Airline security.

After all of these outrageous and ridiculous incidents, the airline executives came up with bizarre grand conspiracy theories and blamed them on institutions that were attempting to erode and weaken the airline’s global reputation and glamour.

The airline has faced significant challenges in recent years due to unprecedented government interference in its administrative procedures. This interference has been particularly problematic as the majority of the airline’s executives are political appointees, chosen more for their loyalty to the regime than for their capabilities.

There is no ambiguity about the fact that the airline has been a source of much needed resources for both the previous and current regimes, as evidenced by the misuse of funds and preferential treatment given to regimes officials and their associates.

On the other hand, Ethiopians from all political backgrounds believe that the airline represents the entire country. This has led to a widespread belief that the airline is a symbol of the country and therefore is untouchable and off limits to criticism, despite the high level of corruption and discontent among its employees due to discriminatory practices. As a result, the airline has managed to remain unaffected by both pro and anti-government forces, despite its role in benefiting the corrupt ruling class.

During the reign of the Tigrean People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the airline displayed favoritism towards employees of a particular ethnicity and unjustly terminated skilled workers, such as pilots, solely based on their Amhara heritage. It is not surprising that the board of directors consisted of members of the TPLF-led Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), and that the Chief Executive Officer was also from Tigray. However, he was forced to resign after Abiy Ahmed assumed power, and the actual reasons for his departure were not revealed.

A few years ago, a highly qualified and trained former Ethiopian Airlines pilot appeared on television to share the agony and pain he has endured at the hands of TPLF-appointed airline executives. Despite his qualifications and experience, he was terminated without reason and received no compensation, solely because he was an Amhara. To add salt to his wounds, he was barred from obtaining any public or private sector jobs. After exhausting all options, he was forced to return to his birthplace, a countryside with minimal job opportunities for an educated man like himself. He ultimately ended up becoming a poor farmer.

Since Abiy Ahmed assumed power, the Ethiopian airline industry has undergone significant changes, purportedly as part of restructuring efforts. However, these changes appear to be aimed at allowing the current rulers of the Oromo Democratic Party (ODP), led by the infantile Abiy Ahmed, to fill the ranks of the once prestigious airline administration with their own unqualified and loyal staff. Not content with simply installing his loyalists in the airline management system, Abiy Ahmed has also appointed an ethnically Oromo Air Force general as the head of the airline board of directors. This general is also responsible for the nation’s air force, which raises concerns about potential conflicts of interest. Furthermore, shortly after his appointment, the general was seen wearing an expensive Rolex watch, which may raise questions about his integrity and financial management.

Concurrently, Ethiopian Airlines has lost its once proud image and the respect of a significant portion of the Ethiopian population. Additionally, there have been numerous reports of the airline violating international aviation regulations by facilitating the regime’s use of its aircraft for the transportation of weapons and troops, specifically to the Tigray and Amhara regions.

The once glamorous airline, seen as a symbol of the Ethiopian nation, has become a political pawn in Abiy Ahmed’s negotiations for concessions from Eritrea, Djibouti, and Somaliland. As the relationship between these countries continues to evolve, the airline’s significance as a bargaining tool has grown. Therefore, it has become increasingly significant in securing political and military gains for the regime.

It is evident that the Ethiopian airline is a tool used by the regime to suppress the people of Ethiopia. The airline administration is filled with individuals who are subservient to the political system, leading to corrupt and incompetent practices. Specific examples of widespread pilfering and other unethical business practices have been rampant. Therefore, boycotting Ethiopian Airlines is the right thing to do to prevent the regime from acquiring resources to purchase drones and other weapons to kill innocent Amhara civilians.

All individuals who value fairness, justice, equality, and the right to life, both Ethiopians and people around the world, should support this call and refrain from using or boycotting Ethiopian Airlines, the regime’s main source of income. By taking this action, they will contribute to a brighter future for the Ethiopian people.