The flight was tense. The passengers politely sat back as if awaiting a disaster to happen. A passenger on my left had a bible at hand, praying quietly.
I was aboard an Ethiopian Airlines plane a few days after the tragic crash of their Boeing 737 Max 8 which killed all on board. The ill-fated ET302 flight connecting Addis Ababa and Nairobi, Kenya, crashed six minutes after take-off killing 157 occupants on March 10.
I was traveling from Congo Brazzaville to Zimbabwe but the drama of flying in Africa meant several connections and a night in Addis Ababa (which I didn’t mind). The first stop was Ponte-Noir, a port city at the Atlantic Ocean near the Angolan enclave of Cabinda.
The landing was rough and a few passengers screamed! Was it the pilot or an uneven runway? I don’t know.
The point is, this was an emotional flight. It is an emotional connection to an airline that Africans have come to love. We love Ethiopian Airline because it represents what a great Africa could be. It represents excellence.
Ethiopian Airline has become a shining beacon in a continent where management of large corporations can sometimes look dodgy.
In the 90s and early 2000s when pan African airlines started to falter, leaving most of West Africa in confusion, Ethiopian Airlines stepped in and connected the region to the rest of the continent and the world.
While its major peers and competitors (Kenya and South African Airways) continue to suffer under incompetent management, making losses and seeking government bailouts, Ethiopian Airline is thriving with efficiency. So how can we NOT love this airline?
When the news of the accident broke out, it actually broke the heart of Africa. We mourned from every nation, ethnicity and language.
More importantly, what the rest of the world missed during the tragic accident is that those who died are not just passengers on fun travel. They were Africa’s best brains – children, pilots, scientists, sports-people, business-people, engineers, journalists and doctors.
Most Africans who travel in the continent are not tourists but problem solvers – gifted people who are working all around to solve problems facing our continent.
So, we can’t forgive Boeing for what it did. This is a costly price that Boeing can never have enough money to pay for.
Over the last eight weeks, I travelled extensively with the airline and seeing its planes lined up at various airports across the continent is such a source of pride.