Angry Sudan protesters block airport runway to stop Saudi plane from taking off

Angry Sudan protesters block airport runway to stop Saudi plane from taking off
3 min read
29 May, 2019
Travelers bound from Port Sudan to Jeddah were delayed when protesters tried to block their plane from taking off.
Protesters reportedly delayed the plane for more than two hours [YouTube]
Sudanese protesters have recently blocked a Saudi plane from taking off in the Red Sea town of Port Sudan.

Although the Saudi plane eventually took off and successfully landed in Jeddah, a video published by Saudi media shows tens of protesters determined to keep the plane on the ground.

Saudia airline on Tuesday confirmed that flight number SV464 from Port Sudan International Airport had been delayed in its arrival to King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah for around two hours by the "unauthorised" presence of a number of people who had tried to "obstruct the plane from moving", according to Saudi newspaper Al-Waeem.

Sudanese media described the group as demonstrators but did not elaborate on the reason why the group had attempted to obstruct the plane from taking off.

While initial reports linked the incident to an ongoing general strike in Sudan which has reportedly grounded and delayed domestic and international flights, it is unclear whether the incident is related.

Workers across Sudan began a two-day general strike on Tuesday in protest against the country's governing transitional military council.

Striking protesters are calling for a civilian-led transitional governing body. The military has refused to comply to that demand so far.

Although Al-Waeem reported that the incident had taken place on Tuesday, citing unnamed Sudanese sources, flight-tracking sites listed no flights traveling from Port Sudan to Jeddah on that day.

Saudia flight number SV464 did however fly from Port Sudan to King Abdulaziz International on Monday.

The runway protest could have been in response to Saudi Arabia's "interference" in Sudan, against which protesters across the country have demonstrated.

According to multiple flight-tracking sites, the flight was delayed by two hours and 20 minutes, taking off two hours and 10 minutes after its scheduled departure time on Monday morning.

The on-ground delay occurred during the plane's taxi time - the time the plane is on the runway - rather than while the plane was still at the terminal, according to Flight Aware.

Nationwide strike continues to ground planes

Airport employees including aeronautical engineers were the first workers to begin striking in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

Early morning flights by domestic and international carriers were reportedly delayed or cancelled on Tuesday, although services later in the day appeared to be running as usual despite delays.

Leading protest organisers the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA) said on Wednesday that Sudanese airlines Tarco, Nova, Badr and Alfa, in addition to a Sudan Airways flight run by Alfa, were all experience delays or cancellations on both domestic and international flights.

Saudi carrier Flynas flight number 590 from Khartoum to Jeddah had also been delayed, according to the SPA.

Both Flynas flights from Khartoum to Jeddah, numbered KNE590 and KNE594 respectively, were delayed on Tuesday, according to Flight Aware.

Flight-tracking sites also show that Saudia journeys from Khartoum International to Jeddah have also been delayed and cancelled on Tuesday and Wednesday.

"Other flights by international airlines took off and will continue to take off from Khartoum International, and have landed and will land on schedule, unless there are new developments," the SPA said in a statement published on Twitter.

AFP also reported that flights at Khartoum airport had on Wednesday returned to normal with the exception of Tarco, Nova and Badr airlines.

"We would not be standing where we are if not for the great cooperation, support and initiative of the Association of Sudanese Pilots, who are working with ground handling companies and other aviation entities despite the political pressure they are facing," the SPA explained.

Egypt's national carrier EgyptAir on Monday said it had cancelled its flights between Cairo and Khartoum due to the "ongoing events" in Sudan.

Follow us on Twitter: @The_NewArab