Yemenia suspends all flights to Comoros

Yemenia Airways has suspended all flights to the Comoros in the wake of the Tuesday crash of an Airbus 310 off the east African islands. Yemeni Transport Minister Khaled Ibrahim Al-Wazir defended Yemenia on FRANCE 24.


Yemenia is suspending all flights to the Comoros in the aftermath of Tuesday's crash of an Airbus A310 near the capital of the islands, Moroni, in which 153 died, the airline said on Saturday.


"In light of serious incidents in recent days and major risks that some passengers posed to airport staff, our company and passengers, Yemenia has decided to no longer serve Moroni for an indefinite period from July 3 until the situation eases," it said in a statement.


Yemenia's lawyer in France, Laurent-Franck Lienard, told AFP that only flights to Moroni were affected, and that the airline would continue to fly to other destinations -- including Paris-Sanaa, Paris-Kuala Lumpur and Paris-Jakarta -- as normal.


On Saturday, Yemen’s Transport Minister Khaled Ibrahim Al-Wazir defended Yemenia Airlines’ security measures. “The security measures that our company employs are to international standards," the minister said during an interview with FRANCE 24.


In November 2008, the European Aviation Safety agency thanked Yemenia and the Yemeni agency charged with civilian safety for having enforced better safety standards and improving the safety of its planes,” the minister said.


Since the crash, in which a 12-year-old girl was the only survivor, members of the Comorian community in France have been up in arms over the condition of the Airbus that Yemenia used on its Moroni service.


They have notably blocked check-in desks in Paris and Marseille for Yemenia flights to Moroni, prompting the airline on Thursday to suspend services from Marseille -- home to a large Comorian expatriate community.


Meanwhile Amid Ahmed Al-Haim, advisor to Yemenia’s CEO, also defended the airline’s record in an interview with FRANCE 24. “Yemenia is operating on this road since 17 years with great professionnalism and has a network going to many destinations,” Al-Haim said during a visit to Paris. “We’re here to tell the people that we are careful and conscious about the safety and we will not do anything to jeopardise the safety,” he added.


In a separate development on Saturday, French Prime Minister Francois Fillon tasked a former French ambassador to Sudan, Christine Robichon, with helping the families of those killed in the crash.


In a statement, he said Robichon would act as a go-between between the families and relevant agencies, and also oversee "good cooperation" between Comorans, Yemeni officials and Yemenia Airlines.


In its statement, Yemenia said it "shares the pain of families who lost loved ones in this tragic accident" as it strives to pass along information and swiftly pay out "provisional compensation".


But it lamented what it called "irrational" demonstrations and "unacceptable violence" which were compromising the airline's ability to deal with the disaster.


"These displays of violence and serious threats are aimed at preventing the airline from continuing its service to the Comoros," it said.


"They risk leading to a new tragedy, on the ground or in the air, which Yemenia has a duty to prevent."


To passengers holding tickets for suspended flights, Yemenia "pledges that all tickets for flights to Moroni will be refunded in full".

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