Dubai-based airline flydubai on Monday said it made its maiden voyage to Juba, the capital of South Sudan, the latest entry to the world’s youngest nation.
Eight Arab and African airlines such as Kenya Airways, Egypt Air and Ethiopian Airlines fly to South Sudan, which seceded from Sudan in 2011.
The African country is seen as growth market for airlines because the capital Juba is brimming with thousands of U.N. staff, diplomats and aid workers. The landlocked country of the size of France has few good roads.
The flight of the low-cost carrier flydubai, which will link Juba with Dubai in the United Arab Emirates four times a week, comes after South Sudan agreed with Sudan to resume cross-border oil flows, throwing both countries a lifeline.
South Sudan had shutdown its oil production in January 2012 over a dispute with Khartoum over pipeline fees, depriving it of 98 percent of government revenue.
The shutdown triggered severe austerity measures, a shortage of foreign currency and a depreciation of the South Sudanese Pound.
In November Kenya-based airline Jetlink suspended flights to Juba and was forced to ground its whole fleet citing its inability to repatriate roughly $2 million-worth of South Sudanese Pounds from Juba.
Funding problems have plagued the construction of a new airport terminal in Juba which was intended to open in time for South Sudan’s independence in July 2011. The project is still unfinished.