According to the Ethiopian organization Human Rights First, Ethiopian Airlines had banned the sale of any tickets for flights in and out of Tigray to any over the age of 15 but under 60. The only "exceptions" to this rule were mothers with children and those with medical letters.
National flag carrier Ethiopian Airlines has been summoned for a court hearing on June 9 over claims by a human rights group that the carrier had discriminated against the locals of Tigray, known as Tigrayans.
According to court documents, the airline, which has had a monopoly on domestic flights, resumed air links between the capital Addis Ababa to the Tigray region after a peace deal signed on November 2022, ending two years of conflict in the northern Ethiopia region.
According to Human Rights First, however, the airline imposed restrictions only two weeks later. The carrier had banned ticket sales to the two working airports of Tigray, located in the capital of Mekele, and the city of Shire. The airline restricted access from any Tigrayans aged 15 to 60, with the exception of mothers with children and individuals with medical letters.
The group's lawsuit also states that Ethiopian Airlines had systematically raised ticket prices to the maximum fare for any flights to and from Tigray and the Ethiopian capital. 42-year-old Daniel Hadgu, whose last name has been changed for safety reasons, claimed that he was blocked from the airport in Mekele on February 26, 2023.
He was traveling to Addis Ababa to obtain a new passport. Hadgu said that "My friend and I had to pay 15,000 birr (about $270) each in bribe to board the Ethiopian Airlines flight." Unfortunately, Daniel and his friend are one of many Tigrayans being denied access to travel. Since the filing of the lawsuit, however, the carrier has lowered ticket prices and removed restrictions.
Ethiopian Airlines, which is a fully state-owned carrier, has rejected any claims in a written response to a civil court and has called for all of them to be dismissed. Human First Rights states its actions have been based on internal company memos along with three testimonies, one from a former Ethiopian Airlines employee.
The group has argued that Ethiopian had "violated the constitutional right for any Ethiopian citizen to move legally around the country" as well as the right to equal service. The NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) has also stated that it wanted the tribunal to order the airline to "lift its prohibition on 15-60 year-olds traveling from Tigray to Addis Ababa and foreign destinations" to provide an equal service to all customers and to stop the discrimination between prices. It is also seeking an official apology for any "monetary and moral damage" caused by the airline.
Ethiopian Airlines in response have stated that it "does not have the legal authority to impose prohibitions. The airline has not taken the (alleged) prohibitions." The airline has also directly addressed claims on raised ticket prices, stating them to be false. Ethiopian will know if it has a case to answer by the end of the month for the claims. The Ethiopian Federal High will deliver a ruling on the jurisdiction on June 30.
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