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BA backs Cairo
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 14 - 04 - 2011

WHERE as many airlines have quit the Egyptian market due to turmoil, British Airways maintains regular operation and says Cairo is a crucial destination for its business
Early this week, International Consolidated Airlines Group SA, the parent company of British Airways, said passenger numbers on routes to the Middle East and Africa slumped 2.5 per cent last month versus a year earlier, even as the overall total rose 6.3 per cent. Air France has adjusted its timetable to take account of lower demand in North Africa, along with British Airways and the Polish carrier LOT, but none have pulled out completely.
"British Airways will scrap flights to the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh from 2 May," stated BA Egypt Area manager Mervat on Tuesday. "BA is exiting Sharm El-Sheikh for "commercial reasons that affected the route even before the unrest began two months ago," added. British Airways had introduced its services from London's Gatwick airport to Sharm El-Sheikh in October 2009.
LOT, which will also suspend flights to Beirut and Damascus, cited "lower levels of passenger interest" amid "the unstable social-political situations in the region." LOT will halt services to Cairo on the same date through 30 June.
LOT says operations to the Egyptian capital have been especially disrupted because of limits on night flying. "But BA values the Cairo route as a historically vital route, operating for almost 80 years." Egypt is a strategic country that we are not willing under any circumstances to quit. Following the unrest in Egypt, the load factor dropped to 35 per cent but we maintained our regular operation for two weeks. Then we had to suspend flights till the situation improved. But we resumed operation to Cairo after modifying schedules to suit the curfew.
"Thanks go to the Egyptian government's smart decision to cut landing and navigation fees to Egyptian airports by 50 per cent, which helped us to maintain our regular schedule as a daily flight with the same wide body aircraft not smaller ones," explained.
On the other hand, the carrier has cut its fares on the Cairo route by 20-25 per cent in all classes in order to promote tourists and businessmen to return back to Egypt. "We have positive indications showing that a possible recovery of the crisis is near, starting next month when bookings are great. I am positive that when the political situation improves in Egypt, tourism and air transport will expand in mega times," added.
The carrier, which merged with Spain's Iberia to form IAG in January, will retain flights from London's Heathrow to Cairo, said. "The merge of the two airlines came out with a stronger entity that is being classified as number three in Europe and number six all over the world with a network that reaches 205 destinations. We expect both airlines to gain benefits out of the merge estimated at LE400 million."
"Over the past two years, and due to the credit crunch, we focused on reduces expenses and expanding the fleet in the same time, adding the most modern B777-300, A380 and B787 aircraft. We also invested LE100 million over the same period to improve entertainment systems and first class services."


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