Dutch KLM to stop flying to Sudan in March due to weak demand

Ulf Laessing
Reuters Middle East

KHARTOUM, Jan 9 (Reuters) - KLM, part of Air France-KLM

, will stop flying to Sudan from late March due to weak

demand, an official of the Dutch airline said on Wednesday.

Germany's Lufthansa will be the last large

European carrier to serve Khartoum apart from Turkish Airways


Arab carriers also still fly to Sudan, which was once one of

Africa's biggest growth markets, but their bookings have fallen,

industry sources say.

KLM will operate its three-times-a-week service from

Amsterdam to Khartoum and Addis Ababa in Ethiopia for the last

time on March 26, country manager Dick van Nieuwenhuyzen said.

The route has not been profitable since last year due to the

exit of aid groups, he told Reuters.

Until South Sudan's secession in 2011, foreign airlines

enjoyed a bonanza as Sudan was flush with billions of dollars of

oil revenues and Khartoum, the capital, hosted thousands of aid

workers, U.N. officials and diplomats.

Such was the rise in traffic following the end of the civil

war with the South in 2005 that Sudan planned a new airport to

replace the current Khartoum International, built by British

colonial rulers in the 1950s.

Authorities want to start construction this year but air

traffic has dropped since the southern secession, which threw

the economy into crisis with the loss of most oil reserves. The

United Nations and aid groups have relocated most of their staff

to South Sudan, while embassies have also cut staff.

Lufthansa threatened last year to halt its flights after

Sudan tried to make it pay for jet fuel in dollars before

backing off, the sources say.

The central bank forces foreign airlines to sell tickets in

Sudanese pounds, which have more than halved in value since the

southern secession and are nearly impossible to convert into


(Reporting by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Anthony Barker)

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