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Flight prices go sky high
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 18 - 04 - 2019

A ministerial decree to increase passenger fees on domestic flights by $5 has led to the ire of many Egyptians, who are already complaining of the expensive price of airline tickets to local destinations.
The decree, announced by Minister of Aviation Younis Al-Masry, included increasing fees on flights abroad by $25 and is effective starting in November. However, it puts another hurdle in front of domestic tourism, which has only lately embarked on the road to recovery, say some commentators.
The Ministry of Tourism has been exerting efforts to raise awareness of the importance of domestic tourism, and these efforts were finally bearing fruit, they added.
The problem, however, remains that many domestic flight prices have become highly priced, especially during high seasons such as school holidays, the summer vacations and feasts. With the latest ministerial decree, the problem has been exacerbated.
Checking prices online, Al-Ahram Weekly found that a round-trip to Aswan on the national carrier at the end of the mid-year holiday could cost LE3,600, or LE14,400 for a family of four. Private airlines offered a single round-trip ticket to the same destination for LE2,831.
People interviewed by the Weekly agreed that these prices would rule out staying in a decent hotel or paying for expenses during the trip. They also complained that the prices of tickets to nearby countries such as Lebanon, Saudi Arabia or Cyprus could be less expensive than those to domestic destinations.
“Egypt wants to encourage domestic tourism, but the officials have to reconsider the price of flight tickets,” said one person who requested that his name be withheld.
“High demand for flight tickets in high season raises ticket prices, particularly on high-season weekends,” Yousri Abdel-Wahab, deputy-director of the Egyptian Air Transportation Union, which represents local private airlines, told the Weekly.
“The majority of airlines make losses in the winter season and try to make up for these during the high season, feasts and long-weekend national holidays. The same goes for travel agencies and hotels and workers in the tourism sector who impatiently await those breaks,” he added.
Another reason that makes domestic flights expensive is fuel. “Some 85 per cent of fuel is bought in dollars. The floatation of the pound [in November 2016] against the dollar contributed to the rise in the price of tickets. The price of planes has also increased three-fold in the past 10 years and spare parts are also bought in dollars,” Abdel-Wahab said.
Other factors include the fact that “the minister of aviation has increased parking fees for planes at Cairo International Airport by 30 per cent. Navigation fees, maintenance and land services are paid in dollars as well.”
Fuel taxes on domestic flights stand at 20 per cent, while taxes on the fuel used in international flights are around 14 per cent, said Abdel-Wahab, explaining why the latter flights could be cheaper.
“When comparing the prices of domestic flight tickets in dollars, Egyptian air travel is still one of the cheapest in the world,” he added.
While private airlines can offer cheaper tickets than the national carrier, this was because “private companies enjoy more flexibility during high season.”
The number of private airlines in Egypt has gone down from 17 to 10, he said.
“A number of companies shut down because of the regulations not allowing operations on new lines, the non-activation of bilateral air agreements between Egypt and other countries, and the inability of Egyptian private airlines to compete with European airlines that offer charter flight tickets at cheaper prices,” he concluded.


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