The Somali-owned airline is currently selling about 85 percent of its seats and is beginning to post a small profit. At least 60 aircraft leased or owned by Somali carriers are presently operating, according to Ibrahim's estimate. Fly540 and African Express, like Jubba, are providing daily service into the country. Air Uganda was recently granted permission to fly into Mogadishu on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays. Back in March 2012, Turkish Airlines became the first major international carrier to offer regular flights into the capital city.
Landing in and taking off from Mogadishu's single-lane Aden Abdulle International Airport, which lies near districts that were within full control of Al Shabaab less than two years ago, can be an erratic experience. "Pilots were instructed to ascend and descend rapidly over the ocean, and
to avoid flying at low altitudes over the warrens of the city. The
rebels have since been mostly driven out, but pilots still perform the
same maneuver," the Times' Joshua Hammer writes. All aviators navigating though Mogadishu's air have probably stopped themselves at least once from dwelling on the fact that it is home to the notorious 1993 Black Hawk Down incident. With good reason, Jubba provides its pilots combat pay whenever they operate at the airport.
According to Jubba's sleek website, a passenger can book a direct one hour and 30 minute morning ride from the capital city to Berbera, a northern seaport on the opposite end of the country, or a number of other similarly short flights to destinations across the country. The domestic trips are usually piloted by Ukrainians or Russian speakers who are familiar with the outmoded controls of the old Soviet planes. After boarding and indulging in an orange juice served by a crew of Kenyan flight attendants, the traveler -- once up at an elevation outside the range of rocket propelled grenades -- might be able to recline and relax, reflecting on Jubba's claimed "brilliant zero accident credential" and its simple slogan: "THE HAPPY WAY TO FLY."
Despite the progress, Jubba flights might still be rougher than what the average traveler is accustomed to. Although no passengers died, Jubba must be discounting in its record an April 2012 instance when a pilot flipped a plane on its side after dodging a stray goat on a runway in the north central city of Galkayo. Internet reviewers and bloggers have lambasted the safety of Jubba and other domestic carriers. One particularly colorful account by British-Somali journalist Hamza Mohamed of a flight from Mogadishu to the southern seaport of Kismayu, Somalia's third largest city, is probably enough to dissuade any potential Somali air traveler:
As with many domestic flights in Somalia, there are more passengers
than available seats. If you don't literally grab a seat on the plane,
you'll stand for the whole journey despite having paid for a seat.
I was lucky to be one of the first to get on the plane. Seats filled
up fast and 25 unlucky passengers were left standing in the aisle. ....
Most of the seats on this plane were faulty. They had no seat belts
and reclined 180 degrees if you touched them. Each passenger had to hold
the seat in front of them with both hands. If we didn't, the seat and
the passenger in it would be in our laps during take-off.
I should mention that there were no cabins to store our possessions
in. Everyone held their bags on their laps. If there's a child on your
lap - which will most likely be the case if you're flying during the
high season -- then you leave your bag in the aisle. If there are
passengers standing in the aisle, you have no other option but to hold
your luggage over your head until you land.
Still, the capital investment involved in building out a reliable railway or roadway system -- outfitted with heavily armored security checkpoints -- that weaves through Somalia's hostile grasslands and deserts far outweighs the cost and risk of running a reasonable plane-taxi service.