South Sudan’s oil shutdown has claimed the fortunes of Kenya’s medium-sized regional airline, Jetlink Express, which was forced to ground nearly eight aircraft for up to four months over a US$2 million financing crisis.
“The airline may resume operations in four months when the foreign currency issue would be a resolved,” said Jetlink’s Commercial Manager, Ephraim Kamonjo.
Jetlink’s Chief Executive Elly Aluvale was not available for comment on Friday as he was held up in talks with financiers who had decided to stop financing the airline’s operations following the South Sudanese crisis.
The forex crisis resulting from the oil shutdown continues to hurt key sectors, but the Kenyan airline has accumulated more than US$2 million, in the Sudanese Pound, which the airline requires freed in foreign currency.
“The government in South Sudan insists that the foreign currency available is for essential goods and supplies like medicine,” Kamanjo said.
Jetlink executives said they were more worried about the fate of 350 employees, who had been forced to stay at home as talks continued with financiers.
Earlier, Aluvale, said the airline would also seek intergovernmental talks to try to end the crisis.
It was not clear whether other Kenyan firms operating in Juba were also adversely affected by the shortage of foreign currency.
South Sudan stopped the production of oil after a long drawn disagreement over the transit fees with Sudan.
The two sides agreed to start oil transportation through Port Sudan after an agreement was signed in Addis Ababa.
Jetlink Express, which has grown in size over the past few years, transports around 600-800 passengers daily across the region, but the South Sudanese route has been its biggest revenue source.