Tigray crisis: three African airways called “unsafe at present”


Due to a major escalation of the conflict in the Tigray Region near the Ethiopia and Eritrea border, the Civil Aviation Authorities (CAA) of Ethiopia and Sudan restricted some airways on Europe – East Africa routes.

On November 17, 2020, the CAAs of Ethiopia and Sudan restricted the UN321, UG300, and UL432 airways after multiple airports in the region were targeted by rockets. The same day, OPSGROUP, a membership organization for airlines and aircraft operators that monitors airspace and airports on risk and changes on flight safety, released the Airspace Risk Warning document, in which the organization scattered some criticism for the authorities.

In the warning document, OPSGROUP recommended air carriers to avoid the particular airspace while transiting Ethiopia, Eritrea or Sudan due to possible danger as missiles were fired across the border into Eritrea targeting HHAS/Asmara as well as HABD/Bahir Dar and HAGN/Gondar at the beginning of November 2020.

The document stated that airports in the northern part of Ethiopia, including the Tigray and Amhara regions, were considered as “unsafe at present”. The organization alerted that the most recent missile attack was carried out in HHAS/Asmara in Eritrea on November 14, 2020. OPSGROUP put under the question the objectivity of the local NOTAMs (notice to airmen) issued by the Ethiopian CAA earlier in November 2020, which allegedly were inaccurate as the Ethiopian authority neither specified why the airways UM308 and UT124 were closed nor explained why the airlines transiting airways UN321 and UL432 must reroute. 

The OSPGROUP outlined that the CAA of Sudan did not alert by any NOTAM neither flight crews nor aircraft operators about any ongoing conflict in the region and criticized the Conflict Zone Information Bulletins (CZIB) issued by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).

“Operators should not rely on EASA Conflict Zone Information Bulletins (CZIB)’s as a primary source of information. These serve only as pointers to the above sources and often are not issued until several months after updates, if at all“, announced OPSGROUP in the document.

The ongoing conflict in the Tigray region of Ethiopia among the Tigray special forces and the Ethiopian National Defense Force started at the beginning of November 2020 after the government of Ethiopia refused to accept the results of Tigray parliamentary elections and postponed the event due to the COVID-19 outbreak in the country.


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