Ethiopian Airlines Co-Pilot Steers Plane to Geneva, Seeking Asylum

| by Allison Geller

An Ethiopian Airlines co-pilot hijacked a commercial plane and flew it to Geneva, where he was seeking asylum. No one on the flight was injured.

The 202 passengers and crewmembers of Flight 702 from Addis Ababa to Rome included 11 Americans, according to ABC.

Geneva Airport chief executive Robert Deillon said that the co-pilot assumed control when the pilot stepped out of the cockpit.

"The pilot went to the toilet and he [the co-pilot] locked himself in the cockpit," Deillon said.

The unarmed man "wanted asylum in Switzerland," he said.

"That's the motivation of the hijacking."

According to CNN, the co-pilot asked the control tower for permission to land as the plane circled around Geneva’s airspace.

"And you have to give us lastly permission on board for asylum,” he said.

"Yes I know," the controller responded. "Sorry, but we are still waiting for the response. We are trying our best to get you the response, sir."

The man landed the plane and exited through a window, where he surrendered to police.

“Hijacker held, situation under control, no injuries,” Swiss police reported to the media.

"His act has been motivated by the fact that he feels threatened in his county and wants to make an asylum claim in Switzerland," Swiss police spokesman Philippe Grangean said.

The results of the hijacking were a relief when compared to a 1996 incident, when a hijacked Ethiopian Airlines flight crashed into the Indian Ocean, killing 125 people. The hijackers were also seeking asylum, in Australia.

Sources: ABC, CNN, Guardian