AL-MUKALLA: A Yemen Airways plane landed at Al-Ghaydah airport in Yemen’s eastern province of Al-Mahra on Thursday, marking the airport’s first official reopening for commercial flights in eight years.
Local authorities in Al-Ghaydah, the provincial capital of Al-Mahra, celebrated the reopening of the airport as scores of passengers descended from the plane to be greeted by cameramen, people performing traditional folklore dances and songs, and officials.
The Yemenia plane arrived from Aden — Yemen’s interim capital — and landed for one hour at Riyan airport in Hadramout province, where local authorities also held a similar ceremony to mark the launch of direct flights from Riyan to Aden and Al-Ghaydah airport.
During the celebrations in Al-Ghaydah, Yemeni Transport Minister Abdul Sallam Humaid pledged to launch direct flights between airports in Al-Mahra, Hadramout and Socotra to international destinations, noting that Al-Mahra is the country’s second-largest province and that the reopening of the airport would boost economic and investment opportunities.
As part of a deal with the Yemeni government to renovate airports and seaports in government-controlled areas in 2020, the Saudi Development and Reconstruction Program for Yemen, or SDRPY, reconstructed Al-Ghaydah airport by rebuilding the airport’s halls, air traffic tower and terminals, and equipping the site with navigation and telecommunication systems, firefighting vehicles and security machines.
The SDRPY said in a tweet on Thursday that the reopening of Al-Ghaydah airport will benefit 500,000 people, adding that the program refurbished the airport with equipment and buildings that meet the International Civil Aviation Organization’s requirements for airports.
Under the same deal, the SDRPY would also renovate Aden airport, expand Aden seaport, and enhance safety equipment at Socotra airport, in addition to expanding Nashtoon port in Al-Mahra and renovating Yemen’s border crossings with Saudi Arabia and Oman.
Rashad Al-Alimi, chairman of Yemen’s Presidential Leadership Council, on Thursday congratulated residents of Al-Mahra on the reopening of the airport.
He said that Al-Ghaydah airport is the fourth operational airport in the government-controlled provinces, following Aden airport, Seiyun airport and Riyan airport.
“This is a joyous day for the Yemeni people, mainly the residents of Al-Mahra province, with the opening of Al-Ghaydah International Airport as the fourth airport in the liberated governorates, following years of suffering and travel difficulties caused by the Houthi militia,” the Yemeni leader said on Twitter, thanking Saudi Arabia for its humanitarian operations in Yemen.
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who contributed to this accomplishment, notably the Saudi Development and Reconstruction Program for Yemen, which was one of the Kingdom’s qualitative development interventions.”
The public in Al-Mahra also welcomed the airport’s reopening and requested that Yemenia and other airlines establish direct flights from the province to domestic and international destinations.
Salem Ahmed Al-Saqqaf, an Al-Ghaydah-based aid worker, told Arab News that the reopening of the airport would allow locals, including medical patients, to travel swiftly and easily, and would also allow local and international aid workers to travel to the province.
For years, locals have been forced to travel hundreds of miles to access the province’s closest operational airport in Hadramout, he added.
“The airport’s opening is a lifeline for people in Al-Mahra because the distance between Al-Mukalla and Aden is great. Patients can now go to Cairo,” Al-Saqqaf said.
The aid worker expressed hope that the airport will remain operational and that flights to other countries will be scheduled.
The Yemeni Presidential Leadership Council on Friday meanwhile expressed appreciation for the efforts of the Saudi leadership in the rehabilitation of the airport.
The council stressed that the resumption of flights to the airport would stimulate investment activities and alleviates the suffering of travelers, state news agency Yemeni News Agency reported.