Documents revealed by CNN confirm that employees of the Ethiopian state-owned airline hid on the roof of a passenger plane to flee their country amid local tensions. Though evidence has been presented, the airline denies the fact.
The incident involved two Ethiopian Airlines maintenance technicians hiding in an empty space on the roof of a commercial airliner’s passenger cabin to flee Ethiopia and claim asylum in the United States, a Customs and Border Protection spokesman from the United States said. confirmed.
The two men applied for asylum on December 1 after placing themselves in a small empty space on the roof of a Boeing 777 passenger jet and surviving the 36-hour journey from Addis Ababa. The aircraft ended up in Washington, but passed through Lagos, Nigeria and Dublin, Ireland before heading to the United States.
An airline source who spoke to CNN said that an investigation concluded that the men accessed the vacant space through a maintenance panel inside the flight attendant’s rest compartment installed on the 777.
Upon reaching Washington DC, the men came out of hiding and surrendered to border officials. A CBP spokesman said the men had “Ethiopian Airlines employee identification cards and were in hiding with the intention of applying for asylum in the United States.”
“Two Ethiopians are currently held in a federal detention center awaiting trial before an immigration judge.”The statement continued. ,CBP has issued a civil penalty to Ethiopian Airlines for a security breach and has been informed of the measures being taken by the airline to improve the aircraft’s safety plan.
A security breach is not an isolated incident. About 16 Ethiopians managed to leave Ethiopia illegally on the carrier’s own planes. Some reportedly dressed up as cabin crew, while others hid in the cargo hold of commercial jets.
Two former Ethiopian Airlines employees describe how they fled to Brussels on December 4, 2021, hiding among luggage in the cargo hold of a plane. “We took the risk. We had no choice, we couldn’t live in Addis Ababa, we were being treated like terrorists.”one of the men told CNN.
Both are of Tigre heritage from the disputed region of northern Ethiopia. The Ethiopian government has been involved in a fierce conflict with Tigris separatists and the national flag bearer has been accused of helping transport weapons and military personnel.
Ethiopian Airlines has yet to publicly comment on the latest allegations.