The airline cited insecurity and low passenger numbers on the route as the reasons behind the decision to pull out. “It is not profitable we had low traffic and the al shabaab factor makes people afraid of travelling there,” said Jetlink Managing Director Elly Aluvale.
Though Somaliland is peaceful, its proximity to war torn Somalia makes it unpopular for travelers. It is internationally recognized as an autonomous region of Somalia. It is bordered by Ethiopia, Djibouti, Gulf of Aden and the autonomous Puntland region of Somalia.
Jetlink operated two flights a week on Mondays and Fridays. “Even the two flights a week did not have enough passengers and the numbers were dwindling,” added Aluvale.
Apart from Jetlink, East African Safari Air also operated flights from Nairobi direct to Hargeisa since February 2010 but stopped shortly after launch. The operational costs on that route are making it a hard nut to crack for airlines.
Prior to the connection between the two cities, it used to take travelers up to 12 hours sometimes even a whole day to get to Somaliland from Nairobi because of many interconnections. Travellers had to fly to Dubai via Djibouti and then Ethiopia to get a connecting flight to Hargeisa.
The Nairobi-Hargeisa connection was seen by Somaliland administration as key to opening up the area to East African business and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa trading bloc. Aluvale said that the airline will relook at that route once travel to the destination improves.
Other Jetlink destinations are Mombasa, Eldoret and Kisumu in Kenya and Mwanza, Juba and Khartoum within the Eastern Africa region. The airline is currently facing stiff competition that has spurred price wars locally.