Ryanair could start flights to Tunisia and Egypt as soon as summer 2016 if regulatory hurdles and capacity constraints can be overcome.

Ryanair’s head of scheduling, Niall O’Connor, tells Flightglobal both markets offer “huge potential” for growth over the coming years as the airline takes delivery of additional Boeing 737s.

“The Tunisian market is the most obvious one at the moment for growth,” O’Connor says, but concedes that the country has had a “tough time of it lately” and a “lack of an open skies agreement [with Europe] is the biggest impediment” for future expansion.

O’Connor reveals that Ryanair held talks with the previous Tunisian tourism minister in November 2014 who was “open to the idea of a number of airports being opened up” including Monastir airport. The Ryanair executive says media reports suggest that the new tourism minister is also open to Ryanair entering the Tunisian market.

Ryanair would also be “quite happy” to open routes to Egypt and the low-cost carrier has held “tentative talks” with the government, but like Tunisia the lack of an open skies agreement with the European Union is a “challenge”.

However, growth opportunities are currently limited by a lack of fleet capacity and, even after the return of fleet growth after it began taking its new batch of 737s last year, O’Connor notes the airline has already announced much of its winter schedule.

The Dublin-based carrier is also expecting to grow its operations in Morocco by 10% this year, the airline executive says, including a “clear potential” for the Irish carrier to start operations to Casablanca, which is “clearly the biggest airport in Morocco and we are not there”.

He says there are no operational reason for the Irish carrier’s absence from Casablanca and says it is “primarily related to costs, the airport is not in a position or chooses not to incentivise new routes”. However, a new aviation tax introduced last year of €9 ($10) could have a negative impact on growth he warns.

Ryanair will grow its presence at Marrakesh by a fifth this year and is the second largest carrier in the market with between 13% and 15% market share he adds.

Source: Cirium Dashboard