It becomes the fourth airline between London and Sudan in 20 years.

Sudanese carrier Badr Airlines has announced the start of Khartoum to London Gatwick. The route will begin in three weeks from the day this article is written, extremely little lead-in time. It will be the fourth airline to have linked the UK and Sudan capitals in the past two decades.

Badr Airlines adds London Gatwick

Meaning full moon in Arabic, Badr has 10 737s: five 737-500s, four 737-800s, and one 737-300. They average 22.6 years, according to ch-aviation. The carrier has revealed that its next route is Gatwick. Beginning on February 24th, it’ll operate on Tuesdays and Fridays and will, of course, use the 737-800. These have 162 seats in economy and eight in business. The schedule is as follows, with all times local.

  • Khartoum to London Gatwick: J4695, 01:00-10:00 (11h block time via Istanbul; see later)
  • London Gatwick to Khartoum: J4696, 11:40-21:30 (7h 50 sometimes via Cairo; see later)

Click here for London-Khartoum flights.

London is the largest unserved European market from Khartoum. According to booking data, approximately 33,000 roundtrip passengers flew in 2019. By far the most passengers flew via Cairo with EgyptAir and then via Istanbul with Turkish Airlines. About as many flew via Jeddah with Saudia as they did via Addis Ababa with Ethiopian. It appears that Badr will be entirely reliant on the P2P market.

Badr Airlines to start London

Image: Badr Airlines.

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Stops en route

Badr’s website shows that it stops at Istanbul Airport (an airport it already serves) en route to the UK. As it says, this is “for a security check as required by the UK authority.” It appears it will have approximately three hours on the ground in Turkey. I estimated that its aircraft will arrive around 06:00 and leave at about 09:00. Of course, it does not have fifth freedom traffic rights.

It means that the outbound block time is a whopping 11h. Surprisingly, this is similar to other options, such as Saudia (10h 25m), Turkish Airlines (10h 35m), and EgyptAir (11h 25m). Obviously, it reduces Badr’s competitiveness – especially when you add in product quality versus at least some of those – while increasing costs and complexity.

En route to Africa, it says it may or may not operate via Cairo (an airport it already serves) to refuel. This will depend on winds and payload. A key advantage of flying Badr to Khartoum seems to be the luggage allowance. Economy passengers are entitled to check in up to 46 kg, while it’s 69 kg for those in business.

Badr Airlines to London Gatwick
(See the text for an explanation.)

Image: GCMap.

The fourth airline in 20 years

London has a long history of Sudan flights. Since 2004 alone, Sudan Airlines, BMED (remember them?), and bmi have all operated. Examining Cirium schedules shows that BA’s ‘exotic’ and long-defunct subsidiary BMED (British Mediterranean) served Khartoum from Heathrow until 2007. All flights stopped en route and mainly used A321s but sometimes A320s. It appears to have started on April 8th, 2004, and in the next three-plus years, flights variously stopped at Amman, Ankara, and Beirut.

After bmi acquired BMED, clearly for its Heathrow slots, that airline continued to serve Khartoum from 2007. Flights were via Beirut, and the route ended in 2012 following IAG’s acquisition of bmi.

Sudan Airlines used A300s to London Heathrow, although the A310 appeared at times. Looking at the period after 2004, they operated via Cairo in both directions and ended in 2009.

What do you make of it all? Let us know in the comments.


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