INTERVIEW WITH CAPTAIN HOSSAM KAMAL ABO ELKHEIR, CEO, EGYPT AIR
Egypt Air: recovery coming from regional and transfer traffic
CAIRO, Egypt (eTN) - As Egypt's national carrier, Egypt Air is a dominant force in the country, representing 38 percent of all capacities from and to Cairo, the country’s main gateway. And this position is probably getting stronger as many airlines downsized their operations last year to Egypt, following political troubles. In a way, it helped the Egyptian carrier to go on its road to recovery. In January, Egypt Air CEO Hussein Massoud was called by the government to become the new Aviation Minister for Egypt, leaving the way to his Vice President, Captain Hossam Kamal Abo ElKheir, to take over the destiny of the carrier. In an interview to eTN, the new CEO – an Egypt Air veteran with over 20 years of experience - pins out his hopes that 2012 will be a year of stabilization and even a year of growth.
In 2011, Egypt Air reached a bottom according to Captain Hossam Kamal: “We carried in 2011 approximately 6.3 million passengers, down by a third if compared to 2010 when we carried over 9 million passengers. Our traffic was then affected at diverse degrees: Cairo as a destination was particularly affected due to tourists’ cancellations. But business traffic was less affected. We also experienced a less dramatic decline to Red Sea destinations."
As market recovery seems uncertain from Europe – which is now affected by an economic recession - Egypt Air's CEO is now looking at boosting its presence in the region. “We started to see recovery in the tourism field, while business traffic goes as usual,” said Captain Hossam Kamal, “With traffic going up strongly to and from Saudi Arabia, we launched new flights from Cairo to Abha, near to the Yemen border, as well as from Alexandria to Jeddah." Egypt Air also resumed last year its flights to Baghdad and Erbil in Iraq and opened a new route from Alexandria to Dubai. “We see a lot of potential for regional flights from secondary destinations,” told Egypt Air's CEO.
Last year, Egypt Air boosted its total seat capacity by 12 percent. Capacities to and from Saudi Arabia alone experienced a growth of over 100 percent from all carriers out of Cairo Airport. For the summer 2012, although capacity reductions will affect a few European and North American routes, increases in frequencies are announced to many regional destinations such as Abuja, Accra, Aleppo, Athens, Bahrain, Entebbe, Johannesburg, Kano, Lagos, and Sana’a. As cooperation works well with other Star Alliance African carriers – Ethiopian Airlines and SAA - Egypt Air now reaches any corner of the African continent, beyong its own 17 destinations. “We benefit from our ideal location between Africa and the Middle East. We can then boost our share of transfer passengers. Over the last few years, we already experienced a growth in transfer passengers from 3 percent to roughly 20 percent,” said Captain Hossam Kamal.
The airline wants to further consolidate the share of transfer traffic at Cairo International Airport. “With Terminal 3, we now have great facilities, which are ideal to implement an effective Star Alliance hub. With our partners, we are building up positions to make transfers at Cairo as smooth as possible. Measures included already the shortening of connection times to one hour, baggage-through facilities, as well as 185 counters for check in,” added Egypt Air's CEO.
Plans are well underway to also strengthen the long-haul network. “We [are] currently study[ing] the opening of new routes to Asia. We will resume flights to Tokyo from April, while we also study services to Guangzhou and Delhi. In North America, we were forced to delay last year the launching of flights to Toronto and Washington. We are now finalizing our arrival in Toronto,” said Captain Kamal. Egypt Air's CEO feels confident to definitely put behind 2011, which might go into Egypt Air’s history as its ‘annus horibilis.'