Controversy surrounds Arusha grass incident by unmarked Ethiopian flight; firm’s initial response badly defensive

20 Dec

Posted by The Ethiopia Observatory

Wolfgang H. Thome’s Blog has come out with a response by Ethiopian, which very defensively is accusing the editor of “unfounded speculation.” This has induced robust response by the blog under the title Ethiopian attempts to whitewash the Arusha incident.

Without further ado, The Ethiopia Observatory has reproduced hereunder the email message from the company, addressed to the blog:

Start quote:

    Dear Prof. Wolfganga Thome,


    Ethiopian Airlines would like to refute all unfounded speculations regarding the incident of Ethiopian flight ET-815 from Addis Ababa to Kilimanjaro of 18 December 2013. Such unfounded speculations are against international procedure and practice of incident investigation and communications.

    Although Ethiopian Airlines should strictly follow the international procedures and will not make pre-judgmental statements before the incident is fully investigated by relevant and competent authorities, there was miscommunication between the control tower and the flying crew, which resulted in landing at Arusha airport. The aircraft had adequate fuel to fly to an approved alternate airport.

    All passengers and crew were unharmed and have been taken to their intended destinations. The aircraft did not sustain any damage.
    Ethiopian Airlines would like to apologize to its esteemed passengers for the inconveniences caused.

    Ethiopian Airlines Public Relations Office
    Public Relation
    Public Relations
    Ethiopian Airlines, Headquarters, Bole International Airport
    Tel: (251-011)517 8407 Cell: Fax:
    Public Relation,

End Quote

In the meantime, The Ethiopia Observatory has seen it appropriate to comment on this matter on the prof’s blog, which at the time of this writing was awaiting moderation.

The comment highlights the need for prudence on the part of Ethiopian, pointing out its lack of good judgment about the timing of its response. It also enquires explanation why the plane was unmarked.

Hereunder is the full text of the comment:

    “Ethiopian has a great history behind it. Therefore, we cannot understand why it has to be so defensive in this situation, as its email above shows. If pilot error were made, say it out. We would say it is very unusual for Ethiopian and move on picking up the appropriate lesson.

    In other words, Ethiopian management could have saved its response (above) to the professor to a later date. The appropriate occasion could have been when it has outcome of the investigation of what forced it into the grass in its hand and is consistent with its claim.

    In this situation, if the outcome turns out to be different – as the professor has put it – Ethiopian has opened itself to the bad eggs to smudge its face.

    Our fear is that the Ethiopian email response seems to have all the makings and smell of political Ethiopia, which is rush to say anything that seems to give it plausible deniability and with no scruples in always assuming itself to be in possession of the truth.

    On a separate matter, what we find equally unusual for Ethiopian is why B767-300ER was unmarked and in service. The international community has unease about such unmarked international passenger flight , having taken lessons from what happened by unmarked planes engaged in ‘rendition missions’.

    Incidentally, B767-300ER being unmarked first caught the attention of Richard Bodin’s camera and a passenger in that flight, who sent the single comment to the first story on Prof. Wolfgang Thome’s page.

    We still do not know the cause or reason for that nakedness and we hope Ethiopian to come with an answer for that!”


See the reply by Wolfgang Thome:

Posted by Aviation, Tourism and Conservation news – DAILY from Eastern Africa and the Indian Ocean islands on December 20, 2013 at 14:23

    Thanks for reading my blog and for making such refreshing comments, after all the vitriolic broadsides over the past days. Many companies, Ethiopian included, still appear to be almost entirely alien to the concept of the social media and the spread of news, both in terms of speed and in terms of expert readers. You are right, had ET responded in the right fashion, much embarrassment could have been spare for them. Now, there are thousands more readers who read their response and my reaction than there were on the initial article. That said, my sentiments were echoed in the Tanzanian local print media too and I wonder if ET has treated them to the same offensive of staff generated counter comments and a press release to them like I got.

    Again, I appreciate your insight and thoughtful reaction. W.


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