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Middle east

Yemeni carrier's safety standards questioned

Video by FRANCE 24

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2009-06-30

As analysts pore over the crash of a second Airbus aircraft in one month, Web users and grief-stricken families question the safety standards of the Yemeni carrier that operated flight IY626.

Paris airport emergency number for families of passengers: +33.(0)
Yemenia Airways's call centre in Sanaa: +967.1.250.800/ emergency number: +967.1.250.833


The Yemenia Airlines flight that crashed consisted of three legs: it originated at Paris's Charles de Gaulle airport on Monday when an Airbus A330-200 aircraft took off for Marseille in southern France and then on to Sanaa, the capital of Yemen. From Yemen to Comoros, the plane used was an Airbus 310 – the one that crashed. The plane, carrying 153 people, reportedly vanished from radar screens when it was just a few kilometers from its final destination in the Comoros capital of Moroni.


Some point the blame at Yemenia Airways, citing in particular the changing of the planes. According to FRANCE 24’s Gulliver Cragg, reporting from Charles de Gaulle (CDG) airport in Paris, people he spoke to from Comores said they “believe they have been treated very badly. They even compared the A310 [in use] to a collective taxi like they have back home, where people are just stuffed in.” Cragg points out that this is not necessarily borne out by official reports, according to which this unit was built in 1990 and passed inspection in 2007. However, France's transport minister, Dominique Busserau, says some defects had been noted.


Cragg adds that the families at CDG awaiting news about their loved ones on the plane said that Yemenia air “did not give any information early in the morning, and did not answer their phonecalls.”


Pierre Sparaco, an analyst at the publication Aviation Weekly, told FRANCE 24 that there is nothing inherently alarming about the fact that the plane in question was an Airbus: “Just as with cars, there are no bad aircraft. [The Airbus] is a good, strong aircraft.” He says this plane was a victim of “bad luck,” adding, “We should keep in mind that there are only two big aircraft manufacturers in the western world so we should be ready for accidents in the next decade to involve either Airbus or Boeing.”


On the subject of the role that inclement weather might have played, Sparaco said, “This area has no known problems that I’m aware of. In principle, weather conditions should be one minor factor in the sequence of events. In this century, aircraft can operate under any weather conditions in safety. It looks like a so-called technical accident, but we should be cautious [before jumping to conclusions].”


A dreaded itinerary


Mohamed M'batanzza, who lost most of his family in the flight, is familiar with this itinerary, having flown it many times before with Yemenia “because there was no other choice". He said the airline’s “conditions were absurd, abominable” in his previous flights, adding, “When you make a stopover you don’t even know when the next plane is leaving.”

Some FRANCE 24 viewers wrote in to describe their bad experiences with Yemenia Airways. Sitty echoed M’batanzza’s sentiments in an email: “Yemenia treats people like cattle! You leave from Marseilles or Paris in planes that are in very good condition, but then when you arrive in Sanaa, the ordeal begins: the passengers have to change planes even if this was not announced in advance. Some passengers were left on the tarmac, and those lucky enough to get on the plane found themselves in dilapidated planes with much to be desired in the area of safety.”


Another viewer named Issa Ahmed said, “an accident waited to happen [a] long time ago.” Ahmed expressed similar complaints about the quality of planes on the European leg of flights being much higher than that on the flight from Sanaa to Moroni.

An independent airline safety rating agency called Securvol  had previously classified Yemenia airlines as being in “Group C” on an A to E grading scale (A being the best, E the worst) in terms of safety.

Date created : 2009-06-30