, ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, Jul 18 – The first commercial flight to Eritrea in two decades departed Wednesday from Addis Ababa after the two nations ended their bitter conflict following a whirlwind peace process.
Ethiopian Airlines said that flight ET0312 to Asmara had departed Bole International Airport, after a ceremony inaugurating the historic flight.
“This day marks an unique event in the history of Ethiopia and Eritrea,” the airline’s chief executive Tewolde GebreMariam said at the ceremony.
Overwhelming demand saw the African aviation giant operate two flights within 15 minutes of each other.
“The fact that we are taking two flights at a time shows the eagerness of the people,” said GebreMariam.
An AFP journalist onboard the second flight said champagne was served to passengers in all classes, who were also given roses shortly before take-off.
Once a province of Ethiopia, Eritrea seceded in 1993 after a long independence struggle. A row over the demarcation of the shared border triggered a brutal 1998-2000 conflict which left 80,000 people dead before evolving into a bitter cold war.
In a surprise move, Ethiopia’s new reformist Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed last month announced he would finally accept a 2002 United Nations-backed border demarcation, paving the way for peace between the two nations.
He then paid a historic visit to Eritrea, during which he and President Isaias Afwerki declared an official end to the war. Afwerki reciprocated with a state visit to Ethiopia just days later.