Yemenis land in Amman on first commercial flight from Houthi-controlled Sanaa in 6 years

Resumption of Sanaa-Amman passenger service follows a civil war truce in April

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Yemeni passengers trickled out of Amman's airport on Monday after time-consuming entry procedures, having arrived on the first commercial flight in six years from Sanaa International Airport.

Yemenia Airways flight 648 is a main outcome of a truce struck on April 14 between the country’s internationally recognised government and Houthi guerrillas supported by Iran.

Yemeni embassy staff were waiting for its 126 passengers in Amman to issue Yemeni nationals among them with papers to enter Jordan, which does not recognise their Houthi-issued passports.

All of the majority Yemeni passengers had to obtain security clearances from Jordanian authorities before departing Sanaa. These clearances were made through travel agents who charged between $60 to $100.

Among the passengers was a retired Yemeni general who lives in Sanaa and who came to Amman to treat an infection in his face.

"I am glad they (the Houthis) let me on the plane. The way to survive in Sanaa is to lay low," he said.

Another passenger is a telecomms engineer who came with his family for a vacation in Amman. He works at Yemeni mobile operator Sabafon, which belonged to the Al Ahmar merchant family and was largely taken over by Houthi overlords, he said.

"We used to go Cairo or Beirut every year for vacation but we have not travelled since the coronavirus," the engineer said. "My kids could not wait to get out of Sanaa."

Among people waiting was Moaz, a Jordanian construction contractor who has a Yemeni partner in a project in Amman.

"My partner's friend is coming for treatment and he asked me to come bring him from airport. I do not know him," said Moaz, who had been waiting for three hours.

Erin Hutchinson, a Norwegian Refugee Council official in Yemen, said the fight was a “stepping stone towards a lasting peace" in the country.

The flight was supposed to take off last month but was cancelled because the Saudi-led Arab coalition that backs the government denied permissions to fly over skies under the coalition's control.

Differences over security searches and passenger papers were resolved and flight 648 touched down at Amman's Queen Alia International airport at 11.40am Amman time, ten minutes later than schedule.

Jordan was a major destination for Arabs from Yemen, Iraq and Libya seeking medical treatment abroad until Jordanian authorities toughened entry requirements in the last several years, citing security reasons.

Around 14,000 Yemeni asylum seekers reside in Jordan but the kingdom has also some relatively well to do Yemenis who study at universities or own small businesses, mainly restaurants.

Yemen’s Foreign Minister Ahmed bin Mubarak said the resumption of flights from Sanaa took co-operation "of our brothers in Jordan”.

Sanaa airport has been closed to commercial traffic since August 2016.

Updated: May 16, 2022, 3:36 PM