Dubai Airshow: EgyptAir aims to grow fleet as delivery slots fill up fast

Airline signs deal to lease 18 Boeing 737 Max jets, as part of plan to have 125 aircraft by 2028

An EgyptAir Airbus A321neo aircraft on the tarmac at the 2023 Dubai Airshow at Dubai World Central. AFP
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EgyptAir is aiming to acquire more narrow-body and wide-body aircraft as coveted delivery slots fill up fast, amid the airline's plans to grow its fleet and expand its network.

The airline is in talks with Airbus for A350 wide-body jets, Yehia Zakaria, EgyptAir Holding's chairman and chief executive, told The National on Monday, on the sidelines of the Dubai Airshow at DWC.

“We need to take quick steps because the market is very tough and if I don't book planes today and get them in a year, then we will find ourselves getting deliveries in three to five years,” he said.

“We want both narrow-bodies and wide-bodies.”

EgyptAir on Monday signed an agreement at the Dubai Airshow with Air Lease Corporation to lease 18 new Boeing 737 Max aircraft.

The 737-8 aircraft will be delivered in 2025 and 2026.

The deal will help EgyptAir with its ambitious plans to grow its fleet to 125 aircraft by 2028 – from 91 currently – in the first phase of its expansion, Mr Zakaria said.

EgyptAir, which was founded in 1932 and was the first airline in the Middle East, also plans to expand its network to 100 destinations by 2028, he said.

It is considering starting flights to new destinations in Asia, Europe and Africa, Mr Zakaria told The National.

Earlier this month, the airline announced new routes to Manchester, starting in July 2024, and New Delhi in August 2024, according to its website.

Israel-Gaza war impact

Mr Zakaria said the Israel-Gaza war was leading to some cancellations in flight bookings but that so far the impact “is not so critical” for the airline and that tourists are still visiting Egypt.

“It's a short-term impact unless the conflict widens,” he said.

“The initial indicators show that the change is minimal.”

Meanwhile, Royal Jordanian said it is dealing with the fallout of the Israel-Gaza war.

The conflict has resulted in the Jordanian airline operating flights on considerably higher costs as it is forced to “fly longer routes to avoid the conflict areas”, chief executive Samer Al Majali said at the Dubai Airshow.

However, Mr Majali still encouraged tourism to Jordan, which he described as an “oasis of stability”.

The conflict “obviously hits us very badly … so we've seen some reduction in our traffic”, Mr Majali said.

Jordan and Egypt both neighbour Israel, while Egypt also shares a border with Gaza.

Flight bookings to the Middle East are down 26 percentage points since the war started on October 7, compared to the number of tickets issued three weeks prior to the war, according to travel data analysis company ForwardKeys.

Updated: November 14, 2023, 4:27 AM