Sudan Airways, the national carrier that’s cut almost all flights, may fire 80 percent of staff as it awaits benefits from the lifting of two-decade-old U.S. sanctions, a state minister for transport said.

The airline will probably dismiss 1,200 of its 1,500 employees as it tries to overcome difficulties in international banking transactions and importing vital spare parts, according to the minister, Ibrahim Yousif Banj. Agence France-Presse in October reported the carrier had grounded 12 of its 14-strong fleet after it couldn’t source parts from Boeing Co. and Airbus SE.

Staffing “is too large at a time when we have no planes flying currently — the only two planes we maintained recently have now stopped,” Banj said in an interview in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, without giving the number of aircraft. The company now hires planes from other carriers for its remaining services, he said.

One of Africa’s oldest carriers, Sudan Airways was touted as a potential major beneficiary when the U.S. last year removed some trade restrictions it imposed in 1997 on accusations that Sudan sponsored terrorism. The North African nation is struggling to revive an economy that lost three-quarters of its oil reserves with South Sudan’s independence in 2011.

Sudan Airways’ general director, Hamad Alnil Youssef, declined to comment on any potential cuts. The head of the labor committee at the Sudan Workers’ Trade Unions Federation, Khairy Alnur, said it hadn’t heard of the plans.

Banj said the U.S. decision to still list Sudan — alongside North Korea, Syria and Iran — as a state sponsor of terror has prevented the airline from finding fresh financing.

“Apart from some spare parts we imported from some countries recently, we can’t so far reintegrate ourselves in the global market and the international donors and big financial institutions haven’t offered any kind of support,” he said.


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Photo Credit: Sudan Airways (Airbus 310-304 pictured) is poised for mass layoffs. Mohamed Alfatih / Flickr