In the midst of political unrest in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum, a number of airlines have suspended or cancelled flights. Airport staff and pilots are allegedly being forced to work at gunpoint, despite the Sudanese Aviation Professionals Alliance (SAPA) calling for ‘civil disobedience’.
Protests in Sudan began in December, as demonstrations took place regarding the soaring price of essentials like bread. They evolved into anti-government rallies demanding the resignation of the then-president Omar al-Bashir, securing support of trade unions, professional associations and, eventually, political parties.
Al-Bashir was removed by the military on April 11th after almost three decades in power. Protesters continue to crowd the streets of Khartoum and are reported by Sky News as saying that “…they won’t [go] until a new government takes office, however long that might take”.
Reports have come in of protestors being killed by gunfire at sit-ins, and of tens of bodies being pulled from the Nile. The airport at Khartoum saw a number of flights grounded on Monday, as the Sudanese Aviation Professionals Alliance (SAPA) called its members to strike. But now, according to reports, some pilots and airport staff are being forced to work by the military at gunpoint.
As such, a number of airlines have taken the decision to cancel flights to the African nation until the situation calms down.
Emirates Sudan flights suspension
“The operations of Emirates flights to and from Khartoum until 6 June are suspended due to political unrest in Sudan. In addition, flights operated by our codeshare partner flydubai to and from Khartoum and Port Sudan have been cancelled.
“Until further notice, customers connecting onto Emirates flights to Khartoum and/or Flydubai flights to Khartoum or Port Sudan will not be accepted for travel at origin.
“We are monitoring the situation closely and aim to give customers as much notice as possible if there are any further changes to our operations.”
They recommended affected passengers to contact their local booking agent or Emirates office for help. Although the suspension of Emirates flights is due to be lifted today, with the situation no better in Sudan we expect a further announcement of the extension of this soon.
Shortly after, announced this morning, Flydubai also cancelled their flights to Sudan. Specifically, they said they had cancelled flights FZ 631/FZ 632 and FZ 633/FZ 634 to Khartoum.
Other airlines who have cancelled flights to Sudan
Turkish Airlines have joined the Dubai based airlines in cancelling flights to Khartoum. Their flights from Istanbul on June 4th at 0030 and 2025 local time, and again on June 5th at 0030 were both cancelled. Subsequently it announced that it will be cancelling its flights scheduled for today, June 6th, also.
Kenya Airways have also suspended flights since Tuesday. They say they are monitoring the situation and will keep passengers updated as more news in received. They took to Twitter to make an announcement:
Following the uncertain situation at Khartoum International Airport, KQ has suspended flights to and from Khartoum including tonight’s flights: KQ 348 Nairobi-Khartoum and KQ 349 Khartoum-Nairobi. We are monitoring the situation and will advise when normal operations resume. pic.twitter.com/P8fPiRUe4P
— Kenya Airways (@KenyaAirways) June 4, 2019
Gulf Air have cancelled all flights to Khartoum until June 8th.
— Gulf Air (@GulfAir) June 6, 2019
EgyptAir were one of the first to cancel flights to Sudan. There’s no word at this stage regarding when they will resume service.
Who is still flying to Sudan?
Etihad are yet to cancel any flights, but have told Gulf News they are monitoring developments in Khartoum. Air Arabia also are operating as scheduled for the time being.
Oman’s SalamAir had previously ceased flying to Sudan, but today announced they would be resuming service:
تنويه ⚠️ Announcement pic.twitter.com/pBrYpR5xoe
— SalamAir (@SalamAir) June 6, 2019
It seems the situation in Khartoum is far from safe, with Twitter users expressing concern for travelers arriving in the country, even appealing to the ICAO to stop flights.
#Amessage to all the airlines and passengers to Sudan .. We are sorry that Khartoum Airport is not safe and staff working at gunpoint, offering travelers and those coming to serious dangers … We ask airlines to cancel all flights going there for their safety
— Philly boys (@pihllybiy) June 5, 2019
Reports that Ahmed Abd Algayyom – a #Khartoum_airport air navigation staff has just been shot to death in his home by Sudan’s TMC after refusing to go to the airport to operate flights, airlines be warned
— Abubakr Ibrahim (@Abubakrncd) June 4, 2019
@icao The situation in #Sudan is dire! There’s a general strike followed by civil disobedience! Pilots & civil aviation employees are forced to work at gun point! Please help stop flights to and from Sudan to avert a disaster!#IAmTheSudanRevolution #Internet_Blockout_in_Sudan
— Nadali (@Nmhali) June 6, 2019
Twitter user Lina noted that Sudanese airspace was empty at 8am local time today.
Sudan’s airspace is empty right now (8 am Sudan’s time)
Since early hours morning the majority of international flights have been cancelled (Arrivals and departures) and the status of the rest is unknown. #مجزرة_القيادة_العامة #Sudan_civil_disobedience #SudanUprising pic.twitter.com/yWHyGW8AV6
— Lina (@leenay_) June 6, 2019
It seems pertinent of the airlines still flying to the capital of Khartoum to withdraw services at least for the time being. At this stage, there is no word from Etihad as to whether they will continue service, although a representative confirmed just a few hours ago that tomorrow’s flight is still scheduled.
Hello again Ahmed, so far, the flight is scheduled for tomorrow 7 June. If anything changes you will be contacted. *Isi
— Etihad Help (@EtihadHelp) June 6, 2019
What do you make of what’s happening in Sudan? Do you think all flights to Khartoum should be suspended? Let us know in the comments.