Enab Baladi Issue # 95 – Sun, Dec. 15, 2013
The Syrian crisis has lasted longer than people have expected; meanwhile, hopes of a near end have faded and have been replaced by some people by hopes of traveling anywhere, seeking asylum or residence permit. However, travelling is not that simple for Syrians who are left with limited choices of where they could go, whereas costs are increasing daily with. Travel expenses through Syrian airports and local airlines have increased tenfold than that three years ago, right before the crisis.
When a Syrian citizen decides to leave the country he\she is faced with two choices: to take risk in leaving through Damascus International Airport, where the area has been witnessing intermittent clashes; or to take the safer route to Beirut International Airport.
Despite the considerable risks of passing through the highway leading to Damascus International Airport, large numbers of Syrian people, especially who live on a small fixed income, are taking that road to save money and reduce expenses.
A year ago, clashes and skirmishes broke out in villages on both sides of the highway; ever since clashes continued and the road was blocked many times for short periods, the longest of which was two consecutive weeks during which the movement of both workers and passengers stopped entirely at the airport.
Furthermore, risks are not limited to the road but to the inside of the airport itself as well. The airport building was hit by several mortar shells; several light injuries were reported among workers and passengers in addition to damages to runways.
To minimize the risks, the airport’s administration proposed day and night shifts system among workers; a worker is to work for 24 hours followed by 48 hours off and so on.
However, workers are not the only ones staying at the airport; some passengers had to spend hours in the waiting hall as fierce clashes broke out blocking the road. Fayez who arrived from Cairo to Damascus Airport during day hours said he had to spend the night in the waiting hall due to clashes and absence of transportations to the capital, Damascus.
Meanwhile, “Syrian Arab Airlines” is the sole proprietor of air transport in Damascus International Airport; the company’s flights are the only available choices after the boycott by other Arab and international companies to the airport due to political and security concerns. Whereas the Syrian Arab Airlines‘ presence in other international airports has shrunk considerably; the company’s flights cover 15 destinations nowadays (Beirut, Moscow, Gulf States, Amman, Tehran, Egypt and Algeria) from the 42 it used to cover worldwide.
As the company acknowledges 30% rate of increase in its prices; ticket prices are actually witnessing rapid daily increase in the Syrian market. Even heading to nearby destinations such as Amman and Cairo costs a passenger no less than 50000 S.P. (333$), in comparison to 15000 S.P. (100$) right before the crisis.
In the meantime, despite the huge increase in costs of air transport, it presents the safest choice available. Besides, leaving to Jordan by land is not as cheap as it used to be; in addition to the risks of land roads, it costs more than 20000 S.P. (133$) to go there through longer routes due to security and safety considerations.
On May 16th earlier this year, Syrian Arab Airlines was singled out by the US Treasury Department as a part of the imposed sanctions on Syrian companies and personnel related to the regime. The company was removed from the global air transport industry solution provider “Aero Sita’s” database as well.