NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 16 - Regional airline Jetlink Express Limited has launched flights into Khartoum after lengthy negotiations with authorities in Sudan.
The flight will operate five days in a week, excluding Saturdays and Wednesdays at a cost $479, Jetlink Managing Director Elly Aluvale said.
While celebrating the maiden flight at a press conference in Khartoum’s International Airport on Thursday, Mr Aluvale said they were hoping to tap into the increasing need for travel between Khartoum and Nairobi.
“We have been trying to expand into Khartoum because we believe that there is a lot of traffic between Nairobi and Khartoum,” he added.
The MD explained that the flights to Khartoum were expected to improve the company’s income.
“There are lots of people obviously looking for business and there are a lot of opportunities in mining, education sector and the aviation. Sudan is open for business and I believe that these flights are going to show when the numbers begin picking up,” he outlined.
Asked whether the elections in that country and recent recession would pose a threat to business, Mr Aluvale answered: “Our business has not been affected because we do not fly tourists but business people. This is because recession or no recession, people are always on the move to look for business.”
Speaking at the same time, the Kenyan Ambassador to Sudan Robert Ngesu pointed out that there were a lot of investment opportunities for Kenyan businessmen in Sudan.
“Service industry, tourism and building sectors have been the main areas of difficulty in the country, but this has changed,” he said. “We wish to thank the leadership of Sudan for working towards this. You can apply for a visa and get it in a day or two.”
Jetlink also flies to Juba, in Southern Sudan. Kenyan aviation companies are reaping huge benefits from the opening up of the region following the recent return of peace there.
The airlines join a list of investments in the region, led by commercial banks and construction companies.
However, the biggest difficulty affecting the Sudan route is the high taxes involved, which are almost two times the rates in Kenya and which eat into any gains made.
Jetlink Express has had to look at ways of cutting down operational costs and creating new revenue streams with the construction of a hangar.
The airline has invested Sh175 million in the hangar that will also accommodate an office block for staff.
It had been sub-contracting hangar space at the Aviation International Support Ltd Hangar at Wilson Airport at a cost of about Sh30,400 per day per aircraft, inflating its operating costs.
Mr Aluvale is optimistic that the new Jetlink flights, which are using the new generation Canadian Regional Jet aircraft, will open up Sudan further for business.