AL-MUKALLA: Iran-backed Houthis have prevented a Yemenia plane from taking off from Sanaa Airport in a bid to compel the national airline to reverse its decision to suspend flights to Amman.

A Yemeni government official told Arab News on Monday that the Houthi militia seized a plane en route to Yemen’s southern port city of Aden, shortly after the company announced that it would suspend the only international flight from Sanaa Airport due to the Houthis’ ban on the use of its funds in Sanaa-based banks.

The official added that the company needs its $80 million in the Houthi-controlled banks to pay salaries, maintenance, and other operational expenses, as well as installments for recently purchased aircraft.

“The company faces significant financial obligations, such as payments and purchasing two new aircraft. The (Houthi) group has rejected all settlement proposals for this dispute,” the Yemeni official — who wished to remain anonymous — said, adding that the funds had accrued in the banks over a long time, even before the April 2022 restart of commercial flights between Sanaa and Amman.

The official added that the funds had “increased from $70 million to more than $80 million. More than 70 percent of the company’s revenue comes from Sanaa.”

They said: “However, Yemenia now pays for its travels with revenues from its southern and eastern governorates’ offices. The group wants to confiscate the amount.”

Yemenia resumed commercial flights from Houthi-controlled Sanaa Airport to Amman in April 2022 as part of a UN-brokered ceasefire that permitted ships to berth at the Hodeidah seaport.

Yemeni official Mohsen Ali Haidra told Al-Ghad Al-Mushreq TV on Sunday that the Houthis had denied access to funds in Sanaa, citing “orders from security and intelligence” authorities, and that the Houthis were attempting to put pressure on the airline to launch new international routes.

Houthi Deputy Foreign Minister Hussein Al-Ezzi said Yemenia would not be permitted to withdraw significant sums of money from its accounts, as part of the militia’s alleged anti-corruption efforts.

“We have merely ceased withdrawing significant sums to prevent corruption and to ensure that we establish honest, disciplined, and transparent behavior for the sake of the company as a national carrier,” Al-Ezzi said on social media platform X.