Egyptair is one of the top airways in Africa along with South Africa and Ethiopian airlines. It is one of Africa’s largest and oldest airlines, and carried over nine million passengers in 2017, compared to 8 million a year ago. Adding more destinations, promoting tourism are top priorities for the company that was established 85 years ago. The airline is based at Cairo International Airport, its main hub, operating scheduled passenger and freight services to more than 70 destinations in the Middle East, Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Americas. Hesham Abdel Fattah Hanafy is Area Manager of Egyptair in Addis Ababa. He has a Bachelor Degree in Business Administration and a Masters Degree in Aviation. He joined Egyptair in 1999 as a sales agent then he helped start the Egyptair Frequent Flyer program in 2004. After that he joined the charter flights department for almost 10 years. His work in Addis Ababa is the first post outside Egypt as Area and Sales Manager. Capital’s Tesfaye Getnet sat down with Hesham Abdel Fattah to explore more about Egyptair. Excerpts;
Capital: Tell us about the many changes Egyptair has gone through lately.
Hesham Abdel Fattah: Egyptair was founded in 1932. Egypt air is the oldest airline in the Middle East and Africa. It provides flights to 70 destinations. Egyptair is the world-renowned national airline of Egypt based in the cosmopolitan city of Cairo. It is more than 85 years old. Egyptair has experienced extraordinary growth and taken the lead in becoming the first airline in the Middle East and Africa, and the seventh in the world to join IATA. Egyptair joined Star Alliance in July, 2008. Egyptair operates from the new, state-of-the-art Terminal 3 at Cairo International Airport, which has been opened in 2009 for Star Alliance Carriers where customers can enjoy exclusive services inside the Star Alliance lounges owned and operated by Egyptair.
Egyptair transported about eight million passengers in 2016 with 81% regular rates. As you know the airline industry is very fragile. It is affected by different circumnutates especially in neighboring countries. As a result, Egyptair has re structured its network. Starting in 2016, our CEO Safwat Musllam developed a strategy and expanded our fleet. Egyptair contracted the purchase of 45 new aircraft for a long lease as part of our fleet modernization policy, which will take place over the next two years. This includes six Boeing 787-9 (Dreamliner) aircraft powered by Rolls-Royce engines, as well as 15 Airbus A320 Neo aircraft powered by CFM56 engines and 24 Bombardier aircraft and CS-300 aircraft.
Capital: What are the main challenges facing Egyptair and the airline industry?
Hesham Abdel Fattah: Maximizing revenue which is the top priority for any business. This means maximizing customer satisfaction, and minimizing costs. Modernizing our fleet will provide a better product. This means that the service offered to passengers on the plane determines the extent to which they prefer our company, hence, an increase in demand for our flights and an increased market share and lower operating expenses like maintenance and fuel consumption. I would like Egyptair to be a recognizable brand not just in Africa, but also in the entire world. Competition, threats of over-capacity and fluctuation of fuel prices are other challenges.
Capital: What are the main strategies Egyptair has adopted?
Hesham Abdel Fattah: We have enhanced our relationship with our permanent partners like Ethiopian travel agents and international organizations in Ethiopia such as the African Union and the UNECA. Egyptair shares and supports many diplomatic and fund raising events held here in Addis Ababa. Egyptair flys to 19 cities in Europe plus New York and Toronto in North America and Guangzhou , Beijing , Bangkok and Bombay in the far east and 15 points in Africa which connect to most cities in the Middle East and Gulf Area. We also offer promotional fares, as we have now, a 35 % discount on business class and 25 % on economy class. We still need to do more marketing through media, especially online, billboards, digital, magazines and newspapers.
Capital: What kind of relationship do you have with Ethiopian Airlines?
Hesham Abdel Fattah: As a star alliance member Egyptair cooperates greatly with Ethiopian airlines. We have code share flights on many destinations and routes beyond Addis and Cairo and passengers can travel from many destinations in Africa to Europe and back through these two airlines. Passengers on both airlines are entitled to the same privileges such as Star Alliance lounges, priority check-in and frequent flyer cards. We also have a beneficial agreement for handling and maintenance on each other’s flights. We are also looking to increase cooperation as more than 80 percent of traffic into Africa is serviced by non-African airlines
Capital: How is the performance of the Egypt Air office in Addis and who mainly comes to your office?
Hesham Abdel Fattah: Egyptair has two offices in Addis Ababa the main one on Churchill road which has been opened since 1998 and the other one in the African Union to facilitate and service all African Union employees and members. We deal with most segments of travelers businesspeople, tourists, students and families, groups and religious travelers but our offices can’t support the service for all our travelers so we rely on our partners like Ethiopian travel agencies our website and mobile application. Egyptair operates now 5 flights per week from Cairo to Addis plus our code share flights with Ethiopian Airlines. We intend to increase flights to daily as we see many destinations in Africa and especially Addis Ababa are very promising.
Capital: What are the biggest opportunities in the future?
Hesham Abdel Fattah: Egyptair is working through its hub Cairo airport to connect passengers from Addis to Europe, New York and North Africa with a minimum connection time of two hours. We want to benefit from increasing travel to China so we are now operating to Guangzhou and Beijing and we are on our way to add Shanghai. People benefit from our modernized fleet with very competitive prices but our connection time is long so we offer a free night in 4 and 5 star hotels in Cairo during the connecting period offering our customer privilege to see and enjoy Cairo’s attractions without any additional costs.
Capital: Egypt has many tourist destinations, how is your airline working to promote Egyptian tourism?
Hesham Abdel Fattah: Egyptair focuses on promoting Egypt’s destinations in the Ethiopian market due to the short flight time between Addis and Cairo which is about 3 hours. Also Egypt is distinguished by its beaches and sunny weather which is good for relaxing the entire year and a variety of luxurious hotels with affordable prices. Egypt received 4.3 million tourists in the first seven months of 2017. Karnak is a well-known travel agent in Egypt who has 60 years of experience in tourist products. We have begun offering tourism packages to many destinations in Egypt especially Cairo, Sharm El Sheikh, Luxor and Aswan with very competitive prices especially on holidays and special occasions. Also we do religious trips in cooperation with Ethiopian travel agents and we intend to expand especially after the Vatican approved the Pilgrim Trail from Cairo up the Nile to Asyut. Corniche Maadi’s Virgin Mary Church, Matarya’s Virgin Mary’s tree, and Minya’s Muharraq Monastery are all included in the itinerary for the journey as places where the holy family landed.