COMOROS

Doomed Yemenia Airways flight: “For us this was inevitable”

One of our Observers from the Comoros Islands tells us about his experiences as a frequent flyer with Yemenia Airlines — the company whose plane crashed en route to the Comoran capital on Monday morning.

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One of our Observers from the Comoros Islands tells us about his experiences as a frequent flyer with Yemenia Airlines — the company whose plane crashed en route to the Comoran capital on Monday morning.

The A310 Airbus was travelling from the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, to the Comoran capital, Moroni, when it crashed with 153 people on board. In light of the accident, Yemenia Airways has been severely criticised for its maintenance standards. The airline says that it carries out "regular checks" on its fleet.

“I notced a part of the plane's ceiling falling off”

Said Mohamed Tourqui lives in Moroni. He's director of the Franco-Comoran chamber of commerce and often travels with Yememia Airways on the Sanaa-Moroni flight.  

The change between the Paris- or Marseille-to-Sanaa flight and the Sanaa-Moroni flight is like a cattle run. When you arrive in Sanaa, you don't get a boarding card and there are no set seats. It's a mess. You just have to sit down in any place you can find.  

What's more shocking though is total state of disrepair the planes are in. Last time I took the trip was in April. Just before take-off, an air hostess asked me to put my seat forward. I told her I had already tried, but that it was jammed. Later on, I noticed a part of the plane's ceiling fall off. The hostess tried to put it back by hand. Then there are the ashtrays that are no longer fixed in place, the seat covers that are never changed. I could go on.

The service isn't any better, whether at Sanaa airport or on board, it's deplorable. After arriving from Paris; you're transported by minibus to the airport, into some kind of back room next to the nauseous-smelling toilets. Passport control takes around four hours.

Comorans all know about this "exotic" side of the Sanaa-Moroni flight. The community's sick and tired of it and have placed plenty of complaints about the changeover at Sanaa.

Yemenia has something of a monopoly on the Comoran market. Between 70% and 80% of passengers take Yemenia, mainly because of the low tariffs, which are cheaper than the other airlines, Kenya Airways and Air Austral.  

For us, this was inevitable. Everybody had seen what a state the aircraft were in. The people are angry, but they're also believers, and fatally, they attribute the accident to God.