EgyptAir plots return to normal by summer end

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Star Alliance carrier EgyptAir aims to restore normal operations by the end of the summer as it addresses a capacity crisis after the political upheaval in the state. The airline says its revised summer schedule will feature a gradual growth in volume of operations and reach normal volumes towards the end of the season.

Tourism to Egypt was badly hit during the three weeks of protests which led to the ousting of President Hosni Mubarak earlier this year, and the airline has been cutting capacity to match demand.

EgyptAir has held discussions with Airbus with a view to deferring some of its A330-300 deliveries to stabilise its operations. EgyptAir holding company chairman Hussein Massoud says the talks have centred on pushing back their arrival by "about three or four months".

egyptair a330-300, airbus
 © Airbus

EgyptAir received its fifth Boeing 777-300ER earlier this year, and the airline had intended to open routes to Toronto and Washington using the type in May. But Massoud says the routes will be postponed. "We don't think we can do it during summer. We're hoping for recovery before the winter schedule, and we'll do our best to start [these routes] in the winter schedule."

Massoud says the revenue situation at the airline is "much better" than in February.

EgyptAir does not believe the crisis will affect delivery of four outstanding Boeing 737-800s towards the end of 2012.

The airline is also playing down the significance of its plans to lease out as much as a third of its aircraft fleet. It says the proposal to lease some 25 aircraft from its fleet was contained in "an internal communication" with EgyptAir staff which "was addressing possible measures to alleviate the impact of the drop in passenger traffic during the peak of the crisis" by offering short-term wet-lease of excess capacity. It has not indicated the extent to which it will pursue the leasing plan.

Star Alliance partner United Airlines, meanwhile, has postponed plans to launch Newark-Cairo flights in May, citing the significant drop in demand for travel to Egypt.

As unrest has broken out elsewhere in the region, a number of other carriers are facing challenges. Speaking shortly before trouble flared up again in Bahrain, Gulf Air chief executive Samer Majali said the unrest in the Arab region, and the postponement of the March Bahrain Grand Prix, has led to a "serious reduction" in bookings for Gulf Air. It was unaffected by the upheaval in Tunisia but had to reduce operations to Egypt during the protests.

Meanwhile Kuwaiti carrier Wataniya Airways was forced to halt operations in March, as the recent unrest compounded the carrier's financial troubles. Wataniya, launched two years ago, had until recently been operating seven Airbus A320s. But it has been unable to overcome its financial crisis. The carrier cites the recent difficult political and security situation in the region among the reasons for its decision to cease flights.