Egypt keeping EasyJet out of Cairo


Egyptian authorities will not grant landing and takeoff slots to low cost carrier EasyJet at Cairo International Airport until it halts its no-frills approach and offers other services.


The Wall Street Journal reports that after the UK and Egypt concluded a bilateral agreement in June last year, EasyJet was given three weekly landing slots from October 31 by the UK Civil Aviation Authority. The number of weekly landing slots on the London-Cairo or London-Alexandria routes was increased from 11 to 14, although seating was limited to 4 500 seats per week in each direction.

The agreement only makes allowance for scheduled airlines from the UK to land at Cairo or Alexandria and this was previously split between British Airways (with seven weekly slots) and Deutsche Lufthansa’s British Midland International (four slots). British Midland International (BMI) takes three weekly slots from EgyptAir, a Star Alliance partner. This makes up 14 slots, the maximum allowed under the agreement.

The Wall Street Journal reports that EasyJet was trying to commence flights to Cairo in November this year but its application for slots was rejected because of its low cost, no frills model. “Technically, we can fly [to Cairo]”, EasyJet Chief Executive Carolyn McCall told the WSJ. “We’re still talking to authorities on how that [clearance] will work.” Egyptian authorities have still not given the low budget airline clearance, saying it must include two class service instead of one, stop selling food on board and have someone collect taxes.

Discussions have been hampered by the unrest in Egypt earlier this year. A spokesperson for the UK’s Department of Transport told the Wall Street Journal that talks would resume shortly.

EasyJet is not overly concerned about the matter since demand from Egypt declined during the revolution there. At the moment EasyJet flies to Sharm el Sheikh, Hurghada and Luxor, but those airports fall under an open-skies agreement.

As a result of low demand, the Egyptian government has come up with incentives to attract visitors to the tourism-driven economy and has reduced the levy charged to airlines by approximately US$5 per passenger.

EasyJet has been flying routes to the Middle East for the past three years and recently launched flights to Jordan.