The inaugural flight from Addis Ababa and Ethiopian State Minister for Foreign Affairs received a warm welcome by Pakistani officials on May 9, 2023. Image Credit: Ethiopian Airlines

Islamabad: Africa’s largest airline, Ethiopian Airlines, has resumed direct flights to Pakistan after a 20-year hiatus.

The flight ET-694, carrying 110 passengers, arrived in Karachi city in the early hours of May 9. Ethiopian Airlines will now operate four flights every week between Addis Ababa and Karachi, which is the airline’s 37th destination in Asia.

Mesfin Tasew, the Ethiopian Airlines Group CEO, expressed his excitement about the resumption of flights, saying that Karachi’s status as the most populous city in Pakistan makes it a “crucial gateway to Pakistan and the wider South Asia region.” He added that the air service would strengthen diplomatic and economic relations between the two regions and provide “convenient air connectivity to the growing number of Pakistani investors in Africa as well as tourists.”

Ethiopian Airlines had previously served Karachi twice, from 1966 to 1971 and again from June 1993 to July 2004. Currently, the airline operates a fleet of 144 aircraft and serves more than 150 domestic and international destinations across five continents.

Flights to boost tourism and trade

On the first flight, Ethiopian officials, diplomats, and a trade delegation arrived, including Ethiopian Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Misganu Arega, Innovation and Technology Minister Fozia Amin, and Trade Minister Kassahun Gofe. The delegation received a warm welcome at Karachi International Airport from Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah and provincial ministers Sharjeel Memon, Nasir Shah, Ikramullah Dharejo, and advisor Murtaza Wahab.

Shah called the Ethiopian airline’s resumption of direct flights to Karachi a “breakthrough” that will boost trade, promote tourism and open new avenues for mutual cooperation. Ethiopian foreign affairs minister thanked the Sindh chief minister for inaugurating the operation and expressed hope for increased trade and tourism. The delegations from both countries then cut the cake to mark the occasion and Pakistani officials presented traditional Sindhi caps and Ajrak to the visiting ministers.

Direct flights are expected to boost tourism and trade and strengthen economic and cultural ties between Pakistan and Ethiopia. “The new flight resumed after nearly two decades of interruption and is expected to connect Ethiopia to Southeast Asia” as Ethiopia and Pakistan have been working to “strengthen their bilateral relations to boost trade and investment ties,” the Ethiopian foreign ministry said.

Opening of the Ethiopian Embassy

Following the inauguration of the flight in Karachi, Ethiopian Minister Misganu Arega will attend the opening ceremony of the Ethiopian Embassy in Islamabad. Arega, who is leading an official delegation to Pakistan from May 9-11, will hold meetings with Pakistan’s state minister for foreign affairs Hina Rabbani Khar. The Pakistani foreign office stated that the Ethiopian delegation’s visit would focus on bilateral issues, especially in trade and cooperation in science and technology, and is expected to enhance the friendly relations between Ethiopia and Pakistan.