By Kaleyesus Bekele

KLMAddis Ababa, EthiopiaKLM-Air France is going to stop its flight operation to Ethiopia as of next month. KLM has been operating to Addis Ababa from its hub in Amsterdam since 2006. KLM has been operating three weekly flights between Amsterdam and Addis Ababa with a stop-over in Khartoum.

Mr. Dick Van Nieuwenhuyzen, country manager Ethiopia and Sudan, told The Reporter that the airline decided to stop its operation because of economic reasons. “Partially it is because of the global economic crisis. The number of passengers has dwindled because of the stiff competition. And the operational cost has increased due to the escalating price of fuel. So we had to make a commercial decision,” Mr. Dick said in a telephone interview. “Our operation on the Ethiopian route is no more profitable.”

Asked about the stiff competition coming from the Middle East, Dick said, “The competition is not coming only from the Middle East carriers. Ethiopian Airlines and Lufthansa are strong competitors.”

Dick said that the fact that KLM is closing down its operation in Ethiopia does not mean that it will have no presence in Ethiopia. He said that its partner, Kenya Airways, will represent KLM-Air France in Ethiopia. “Kenya Airways will be our agent and some of our staff members are already moving to Kenya Airways.”

KLM-Air France is the fourth international airline to pull out of Ethiopia. Alitalia, BMI, and South African Airways are among the international airlines that stopped operation in Ethiopia. Currently there are 13 international airlines that fly to Ethiopia.

KLM is the flag carrier airline of the Netherlands. KLM’s headquarters is in Amstelveen near its hub at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. KLM operates worldwide scheduled passenger and cargo services to more than 90 destinations. It is the oldest airline in the world still operating under its original name. KLM has also acquired a 26 percent holding in Kenya Airways for USD 26 million.