Al-Ahram Weekly Online   21 - 27 June 2007
Issue No. 850
Economy
 
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

EgyptAir takes flight

A new airline and many new routes raise EgyptAir's profile, writes Amirah Ibrahim

The national carrier Egyptair, which virtually monopolises domestic air travel, has launched a domestic service operated by EgyptAir Express (EAE). EAE is the eighth company launched by EgyptAir, set up six months ago when a deal with Brazilian manufacturer EmbrAir to purchase six new small aircraft was made. Two weeks ago, it received its first plane which started operation with four flights daily to Sharm El-Sheikh. "Our airline operates on domestic routes together with the original airline, which operates its medium range planes," said Mohamed Hassan, EAE chairman. "The international airline maintains the operation of three flights daily, two in the morning and one late at night while we operate four flights at 9am, 12pm, 5pm and 8pm, to cover the demand throughout the day."

Domestic schedules have been the subject of criticism by tourist operators and foreign airlines. "The national carrier used to have domestic flights only at early and late times in order to use the daytime for international flights. This resulted in problems for tourist operators and other airlines wanting to make connecting flights," Hassan told Al-Ahram Weekly. "Now with our new operation with small jets, we can fit the needs of the plan to make Cairo Airport into a regional hub for Africa and the Middle East. This will be for the good of both the national carrier's international network and foreign carriers."

According to Hassan, EAE operated its second route to Hurghada on 9 June providing three flights daily beside the two daily flights served by EgyptAir. "By the first of July our network will expand to five routes giving Luxor eight flights, four of which are operated by EAE. To meet investor demand on Egypt's northern coast, we will also be operating two flights weekly to Borg Al-Arab city west of Alexandria and two flights weekly to Marsa Matrouh."

Hassan explained that the airline received its third aircraft on 20 June while the other three planes would arrive in July, August and September. "This means that during June, we will be operating seven flights daily to both Sharm El-Sheikh and Hurghada using three planes. I am glad to say that our flights are fully booked for the first two weeks, even for the Hurghada schedule."

EAE will also target regional markets. "We have completed our operational schedules for regional routes and they are already available for booking. We will start operation by the end of September with three regional routes. Two routes will operate from Sharm El-Sheikh to Jeddah and Amman with a daily flight for each. A third route will also operate between Alexandria and Beirut with four flights a week," he said.

Ticket prices are 25 per cent less than on regular flights. "Clients will have the choice to travel on board our small jets for less with very comfortable seats. The price is lower because we use the facilities of our sister airline, its e-booking system, and its offices here and abroad. We also have four categories of prices while our sister airline has 13 categories. This is due to the limited seating we have on board our 70-seat planes."

The national carrier launched three new services to the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur, to the Portuguese capital Lisbon and to the Chinese city of Gonzo. "The new service to Gonzo with three flights weekly and to Kuala Lumpur with two flights weekly will support our expansion plans in the Far East," explained EgyptAir chairman, Atef Abdel-Hamid. "EgyptAir operates a daily flight to Bangkok and four flights weekly to the Chinese capital Beijing. Kuala Lumpur is operated via Bombay," Abdel-Hamid stated. The Lisbon route has three flights weekly.

According to Abdel-Hamid, 10 new destinations are scheduled to be launched: Warsaw, Brag, Belgrade, Dar Al-Salam, Dakar, Lusaka, Washington, Chicago, Toronto and Shanghai.

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