KLM to end direct Sudan flights March 31
KHARTOUM - Dutch airline KLM said Tuesday it is ending direct flights between Amsterdam and the Sudanese capital Khartoum, citing rising costs.
The move will also mean an end to KLM's connecting service from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
KLM will stop its thrice-weekly Amsterdam-Khartoum-Addis route on March 31, Dick Van Nieuwenhuyzen, the airline's country manager for Sudan and Ethiopia, said.
"The line is not making a profit and the costs are rising faster than the income," he said.
The decision will leave only one European carrier, the German airline Lufthansa, with direct flights between Sudan and the continent.
Van Nieuwenhuyzen said he did not know how long KLM had served the route but it had closed once before, six or seven years ago, before being re-opened.
He said that along with increased fuel, salaries, landing fees and other costs, there has been a shift of companies and non-governmental organisations to South Sudan.
"The market as such will be smaller in Khartoum," Van Nieuwenhuyzen said, although 80-85 percent of seats on the route were being filled.
When South Sudan separated two years ago with about three-quarters of Sudan's oil production, Sudan lost most of its export earnings. Since then, the Sudanese pound has plunged in value on the black market and inflation has soared to above 40 percent.
A shortage of foreign exchange led the government to try banning the repatriation of earnings, according to University of Khartoum economist Mohammed Eljack Ahmed, but the KLM official said this was not a factor in closing the route.
"I was able to spend all my local currency on local costs," including buying the fuel for 100 percent-owned cargo subsidiary Martinair, Van Nieuwenhuyzen said.
The cargo firm will continue its service to Sudan, he added.
Ahmed, the economist, said a newly-passed investment law allows for the repatriation of earnings after the government realised there had been "negative impact on foreign investment".
With the end of direct Amsterdam service, Sudan passengers will be able to fly Kenya Airways to Cairo before boarding a KLM flight to the Netherlands, Van Nieuwenhuyzen said.