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Ethiopian plane crash should not sully success story

January 25, 2010

lebanonWhen news of the Ethiopian Airlines plane crash broke this morning my heart sank at the thought of covering yet another negative story about Ethiopia.

It’s particularly galling for Ethiopians that the airline is one of the few international success stories for a country known mostly for famine and war.

When the news emerged I also immediately knew how hard the company’s staff would take it. I’ve been to the sprawling campus that serves as headquarters to Africa’s arguably flagship airline many times. The last time was just last week to interview CEO Girma Wake and I left with a gift of Ethiopian coffee and the impression that I’d rarely seen people so passionate or proud about their work and what it does for their country.

Ethiopian Airlines is a company that Ethiopians are proud of. It has consistently expanded and remained profitable through tough times for other airlines and all manner of global economic strife. It has prioritized safety in a continent with a lamentable record and it is aggressively expanding into China and India.

It had an impressive safety record before today, last suffering a disaster in 1996 when Somali hijackers demanded to be flown to Australia, causing the plane to run out of fuel and ditch off the Comoros, killing 123 of its 175 passengers.

Ethiopians I spoke to this morning said they didn’t think people outside of the country would be surprised that an Ethiopian Airlines plane had crashed, so negative are foreign perceptions of the country. But the fact is: it is a surprise.

The airline is a symbol of hope for Ethiopia. And Ethiopia is a truly unique and propitious country of 80 million people — albeit with a desperate history.

Democracy is now — debatably — slowly emerging, a middle class has appeared, the economy is growing, more Ethiopians than ever before are being educated, and ambitious and fiercely patriotic Ethiopians are taking control of the future of one of Africa’s most exciting prospects. Ethiopia is not just bad news anymore.

The cause of the crash is still unknown. But it would be a shame if this one incident damages perceptions of an emerging airline and a promising country.


Thankyou for your balanced and extremely sympathetic story. You are really a good friend of Ethiopia. I completely agree with your ideas.

Tadesse Zebeaman
Bahir Dar,Ethiopia

Posted by Tadesseafro | Report as abusive

May god bring comfort to those affected families. This past week’s incident is an isolated & tragic thing. As this reuters’s story testifies, and Girma Wake the president of Ethiopian Airlines has assured; foriegn tourists and investors coming to & going out of Ethiopia should feel assured, that Ethiopian Airlines is safe and secure airline to travel on; tainted only by this tragic isolated incident with otherwise a superb record of safety and service.

Posted by henok | Report as abusive

Undeniably, what this article is saying is true. EAL is a world class airliner with good safety and service record. Unfortunately, the way Ethiopian Airlines acted during this accident was very disappointing. It felt EAL is more concerned about its image rather than explaining the events that happened as the story of the accident unfolded. The moment the story of the accident emerged, the Ethiopian media was flooded with stories of the success, leadership, safety record and service of EAL instead of the accident and its aftermath. Many of us felt the airliner does not care about the victims families or the public who wanted to know about the accident.

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Posted by asksimba | Report as abusive

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