EgyptAir (Arabic: مصر للطيران, Miṣr liṭ-Ṭayarān) is the flag carrier airline of Egypt. The airline is based at Cairo International Airport, its main hub, operating scheduled passenger and freight services to more than 75 destinations in the Middle East, Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Americas. With an extensive network of domestic services focused on Cairo, Egypt's capital, the airline is working to regain profitable operations following the revolution of 2011.
Egyptair is a member of Star Alliance, having joined on 11 July 2008. The airline's logo is Horus, the sky deity in ancient Egyptian mythology, chosen because of its ancient symbolism as a "winged god of the sun", and usually depicted as a falcon or a man with the head of a falcon.
Early years: Misr Airwork (1932–1949)
Alan Muntz, chairman of Airwork, visited Egypt in 1931; at that time, he expressed his intention of starting up a new airline in the country. The new enterprise was named Misr Airwork, with ″Misr″ being the Egyptian for Egypt. On 31 December 1931, the government granted the new company the exclusivity of air transport operations. A division of Misr Airwork named Misr Airlines was established on 7 June 1932 ″to promote the spirit of aviation among Egyptian youth″. The headquarters of Misr Airwork, S.A.E. was in Almaza Aerodrome, Heliopolis, Cairo.
The initial investment was EG£20,000, with ownership split between the Misr Bank (85%), Airwork (10%), and Egyptian private investors (5%). Operations started in July 1933, initially linking Cairo with Alexandria and Mersa Matruh using de Havilland DH.84 Dragon equipment. By August that year, the frequency on the Cairo–Alexandria service had been boosted to twice-daily. In late 1933, a twice-weekly Cairo–Aswan flight that called at Asyut and Luxor was inaugurated. Via Port Said, a flight from Cairo that served Lydda, Haifa and Palestine was launched in 1934. On 3 August 1935, a test service via Lydda with final destination in Cyprus began using D.H.86 aircraft; the run was terminated on 20 October that year. The Alexandria–Port Said–Cairo–Minia–Assiut run was opened in late 1935. During 1935, the airline carried 6,990 passengers and 21,830 kilograms (48,130 lb) of freight; for the year, these regular services flew 419,467 miles (675,067 km).
The Alexandria–Assiut route, which called at Port Said, Cairo and Minia, and the Cairo–Cyprus–Haifa–Baghdad run were the two operative services the carrier had by 1936. Hadj flights commenced in 1937. Operations to Cyprus resumed in 1938 with a Cairo–Lydda–Haifa–Larnaka service. The carrier operated all-British aircraft in the early years,:588 and by April 1939 the fleet comprised one D.H. Dragon, one D.H. Dragonfly, five D.H. Rapìdes, two D.H.86s and one D.H.86B that worked on the Alexandria–Cairo, Alexandria–Port Said–Cairo–Minia–Assiut, Cairo–Assiut–Luxor–Assuan, Cairo–Lydda–Haifa–Baghdad and Cairo–Port Said–Lydda–Haifa routes. The Egyptian government took over all the routes in September 1939. In 1940, a service to Beirut and Palestine was started. Three Avro 19s were incorporated into the fleet in 1944. Three accidents that took place in late 1945 prompted strikes for a fleet renewal and caused operations to come to a total halt since February 1946; services resumed in May, and by late 1946 the fleet included four Avro Ansons, one Beech AT-11, five Beech C-45s, four de Havilland D.H.89 Dragon Rapides, two North American AT-6 Texan. The carrier benefited from the Allies' regional aircraft disposal station that sold surplus military aircraft being located in Egypt. Two more Beech C-45s were delivered in 1947, and the Vickers Viking was incorporated in 1948. In May 1949, all the capital and the aircraft park was acquired by the government. After the Egyptian state became the sole shareholder, the company changed its name to Misrair SAE.
Misrair continued to fly the same routes as it predecessor. In 1951, three Languedocs were acquired; these were intended for deployment on longer routes. The Languedocs replaced the Vikings on flights to Geneva, Khartoum and Tehran. Three Vickers Viscounts were ordered in early 1954. During that year, the carrier transported 64539 passengers. At March 1955, Misrair 's fleet comprised one Beechcraft, three Languedocs and seven Vikings; the three Viscounts were still pending delivery. Douglas DC-3s were subsequently purchased and deployed on domestic routes, as well as to neighbour Arab countries. Delivery of the first two Viscounts occurred in December 1955; they were put on service in March the following year. The number of passengers transported during 1955 had grown to 77050. A number of aircraft were lost during the Suez crisis. In February 1957, Misrair was renamed United Arab Airlines. Late that year, two more Viscounts were ordered at a cost of £600,000–800,000, including spares. Prior to this, an aircraft of the type was lost while standing at Almaza Airport during an air raid.
United Arab Airlines (1957–1971)
Following the formation of the United Arab Republic by Egypt and Syria on 1 February 1958, Misrair was renamed United Arab Airlines (UAA) in March that year.[nb 1] A Cairo–Athens–Rome–Zurich service was launched on 7 July. Syrian Airways merged into UAA on 23 December, with the latter absorbing both the routes and the equipment of the Syrian carrier. By March 1960, the airline had 579 employees. At that time, the fleet comprised one Beech D18S, four DC-3s, six Vikings and six Viscounts.:505 One of the Viscounts crashed into the Mediterranean on 10 April, killing 17 passengers and a crew of three. With registration SU-ALC, the first of three Comet 4Cs was delivered on 9 June.:588 Operations using two of these aircraft started on 16 July the same year.:588 By October 1960, Misrair had Comets deployed on the Cairo–Belgrade–Prague, Cairo–Rome–London, Cairo–Jeddah and Cairo–Khartoum runs,:588 DC-3s on the Cairo–Alexandria–Mersa Matruh, Cairo–Assiut–Luxor, Cairo–Luxor–Aswan and Cairo–Port Said–Alexandria services, and Viscounts were used for the non-stop flights that linked Cairo and Alexandria.:589 An order for two more Comets was placed in November 1960. Syria's association with UAA ended in October 1961, when Syrian Arab Airways was established by the Syrian government in Damascus; the route network and fleet that had been taken over by UAA was returned to the new company.
A United Arab Airlines Comet 4C departs Geneva Airport in 1968.
Two more Comets, the fourth and fifth ones, were ordered in early 1961. Three ex-SAS DC-6s were purchased in April 1961. The Cairo–Lagos run was extended to Accra on 12 June and flights to Moscow commenced on 21 June. A contract with Boeing for the purchase of Boeing 707-320B aircraft, with delivery dates between November 1961 and April 1964, was announced in September; the deal fell through when the airline could not find financing. On 1 November, a new flight to Karachi and Bombay was launched, and the sixth and seventh Comets were ordered in December; these were delivered in April 1962. Also in 1961, the Cairo–Nicosia run, suspended since the Suez crisis in 1956, was restored, flown with Viscount equipment. Routed via Bangkok and Hong Kong, the Bombay service was extended to Tokyo in May 1962. The three-strong crew of a DC-3 that crashed at Heliopolis on 16 May 1962 died, and 26 more people perished in an accident involving a Comet at Bangkok on 19 July the same year. Two more Comets were acquired in August, entering the fleet in September the same year and during 1963. On 15 February 1963, the route to Baghdad was resumed after a three-year hiatus, but the service was short-lived, as political tensions between Egypt, Iraq and Syria forced the disruption of flights to both this destination and to Damascus; on 1 April, a new service to Rhodesia was inaugurated. The carrier experienced two deadly accidents during 1963 that left a death toll of 93. The first one took place on 12 May when a DC-3 crashed near Alexandria, killing 27 passengers and a crew of four; the second accident occurred on 28 July and involved a Comet that crashed into the ocean near Bombay, killing 62. Short of aircraft to serve Tokyo, the route was terminated. In addition, another Comet, SU-ALM, resulted damaged in Benghazi on 12 September. The ninth and final Comet was delivered in 1964. Also that year, three ex-Pan Am DC-6Bs were purchased, and another three were acquired from Northwest Orient; these aircraft were put on service on domestic routes and began replacing the Viscounts. Also aimed at operating domestic services, seven Antonov An-24s were ordered for US$2.3 million.
A United Arab Airlines Ilyushin Il-62 at Le Bourget Airport in 1971
By March 1965, seven Comet 4Cs and four Viscounts worked on a route network across Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, along with the Cairo–Prague–Moscow run and a service to Lagos and Accra. On 1 August, a subsidiary airline named Misrair started operations.[nb 2] A contract worth US$30 million for three Boeing 707-320Cs was signed with Boeing on 15 June 1966 and also included four additional machines on option. On 1 November, the airline suppressed the stop at Prague on the Cairo–Prague–Moscow service, and in January 1967 UAA started the Cairo–Frankfurt–Copenhagen run. On 22 June 1967, a Comet crashed in Kuwait while landing; there were no fatalities but the aircraft was written off. In August 1968, the airline took delivery of two Ilyushin Il-18s. The first Boeing 707 was handed over by the aircraft manufacturer on 21 October the same year; it was later put into service on the Cairo–London corridor. One of the Il-18s was involved in a deadly crash while attempting to land at Aswan Airport on 20 March 1969. That March, the carrier started services to East Berlin with Il-18 equipment and in June the route to Tokyo via Kuwait, Bombay, Bangkok and Hong Kong was resumed.
A number of accidents occurred during the early 1970s. The first one took place on 14 January 1970 and involved a Comet 4C (SU-ANI) that crashed on landing at Addis Ababa from Cairo; no one of the 14 people on board resulted seriously injured. The second accident UAA went through in the year took place on 30 January when an Antonov An-24V, SU-AOK, experienced the collapse of the landing gear on touchdown at Luxor. On 19 February SU-ALE, another Comet, aborted takeoff from Munich Riem Airport at 30 feet (9.1 m), fell back to the runway, slid until the end of it and hit a fence. Another An-24V, SU-AOC, belly-landed at Cairo on 14 March. A third An-24V (SU-ANZ) was involved in an accident on 19 July; the aircraft was on a training flight and crashed near Cairo, killing the three occupants. On 2 January 1971, a Comet (SU-ALC) hit sand dunes on approach to Tripoli, with the loss of lives of the eight passengers on board and the crew of eight.
At March 1970, UAA had 7,810 employees; the fleet comprised seven An-24Bs, three Boeing 707-366Cs, six Comet 4Cs and three Il-18s. The fourth Boeing 707 was delivered in March 1970. On 23 May 1971, the acquisition of two Ilyushin Il-62s was announced, scheduled for delivery in June the same year. June 1971 saw the airline using these aircraft on European routes, supplementing the services operated with the Boeing 707s. The Il-62s were introduced on Asian services on 9 July. The name of the airline was changed to Egyptair on 10 October 1971, following the country changing its name to Arab Republic of Egypt.
An EgyptAir Boeing 707-320C at Zurich Airport in 1978
EgyptAir inherited UAA 's staff, equipment, assets and liabilities. On 19 March 1972, a Douglas DC-9-32 carrying Yugoslav registration YU-AHR crashed into the Shamsam Mountains, 4 miles (6.4 km) southwest of Aden, killing all 30 occupants on board. On 16 June, an Ilyushin Il-62 (SU-ARN) was involved in a landing accident with no reported fatalities. In July, eight Tupolev Tu-154s were ordered for US$60 million, with three of them slated for delivery in July 1973, three in November 1973 and two in March 1974. Prior to firming the transaction up EgyptAir had also considered the Boeing 727, but financing for these US-manufactured aircraft could not be arranged. Under the terms of the contract, light maintenance was to be performed in Egypt, whereas airframe and engine overhauling was to be undertaken in the Soviet Union. In July 1972, the acquisition of four Boeing 707-320Cs valued at US$40 million was announced. At this time, the airline had four Boeing 707s already in operation. The handover of the new aircraft had been arranged for March, May, June and September 1973. On 5 December 1972, one of the four 707s already in the fleet (SU-AOW) crashed near Cairo while on a training flight. The crew of six perished in the accident. Reports indicating the airframe had been shot down were denied by the Egyptian government. An Ilyushin Il-18, registration SU-AOY, was involved in a deadly accident near Nicosia on 29 January 1973 when it crashed into mountainous terrain, killing all 37 occupants on board. Delivery of the four new Boeing 707s took place during the year, with two more 707-320Cs being ordered in September. In October the three Il-62s were returned to Aeroflot because of elevated operational costs and technical issues. Also that month, the first Tu-154 entered the fleet and was used for pilot training. From Moscow, the handover of the Tu-154s was made through London-Heathrow, where these aircraft were fitted with British-made seats.
An EgyptAir Boeing 737-200 Advanced on short final to Zurich Airport in 1979
The outbreak of the Yom Kippur War in 1973 had forced the carrier to suspend the Tokyo service; it was resumed on 15 March 1974 via Bombay, Bangkok and Manila. During 1974, the flight to Khartoum was extended to Kinshasa. One of the brand new Tu-154 aircraft, SU-AXO, crashed on 10 July 1974 after takeoff from Cairo International Airport during a training flight, killing a crew of six on board. Following the crash EgyptAir requested the return of its Tu-154 fleet to the Soviets and a refund for the price paid for them. The capacity shortage caused by the grounding of the Tu-154s was partly alleviated by the lease of aircraft. The airline had already been looking for other aircraft to replace them, and an order for six Douglas DC-9-50s was placed in November. On 9 December, an Il-18, registration YR-IMK, crashed into the Red Sea; there were nine fatalities. In January 1975, the government turned the order with Douglas down and moved to Boeing for the provision of new equipment. An agreement with the Soviets for the return of the Tu-154s was struck on 10 February; early in the year the An-24s were traded back to the company that represented the Soviets as a partial repayment for the loan taken to acquire the aft-engined Tu-154s. The Boeing order was finalised by March and consisted of four Boeing 727-200s and six Boeing 737-200s. There were plans to trade the first three Boeing 707-320Cs in for the new aircraft as part of the deal with Boeing. Valued at US$60 million, the transaction was partly financed by the United Arab Emirates. In May, the order was homogenised to eight Boeing 737-200s with deliveries slated for April and May 1976. Arrangements were made to sell the four Comets both to raise money to finance the new aircraft and to have an all-Boeing fleet.
A link between Cairo and Milan began in January 1976 and a new flight to Vienna started in April. Following allegations from the Egyptian parliament that airline officials had been bribed by Boeing to favour the 1975 order, the chairman Gamal Erfan resigned in February. On 22 April, a Boeing 737 flying from Cairo to Luxor was hijacked by three Palestinians; an Egyptian commando team regained control of the aircraft with no damages to its structure. The four Comets were sold to Dan-Air on 9 October. During the year, seven Boeing 737 Advanced entered the fleet. A serious accident involving a Boeing 707 took place on 25 December when a non-regular flight from Cairo to Tokyo crashed into a textile mill while on approach to Bangkok, killing all 43 passengers and a crew of nine; fatalities and injured people on the ground were also reported. Early in 1977, the first arrests related to the bribery case involving the Boeing order took place when a former pilot admitted he had been bribed for US$150,000. In February, an agreement to lease two Airbus A300B4 aircraft from Germanair and Trans European Airlines was signed. On 1 April, services to Abu Dhabi and Karachi were launched. The first A300 service flew the Cairo–Karachi route on 3 June. The lease conditions for the aircraft owned by Bavaria Germanair changed to a lease/purchase agreement. EgyptAir eventually acquired the two leased A300B4 aircraft. During 1979, three A300B4-200s were ordered for US$115 million with a delivery span between September 1980 and September 1981; the carrier took options on four more aircraft of the type. Financing for the three firmly ordered aircraft was partly provided by the Midland Bank and the Dresdner Bank.
EgyptAir is a state-owned company with special legislation permitting the management to operate as if the company were privately owned without any interference from the government. The company is self-financing without any financial backing by the Egyptian government.
The airline underwent a major corporate re-engineering in 2002, when its structure was changed from a governmental organization into a holding company with subsidiaries. The move coincided with establishment of the Egyptian Minister of Civil Aviation and the government's ambitious strategy to modernize and upgrade its airports and airline. The airline was given the right to operate without any interference from the government and the duty to do so without any financial backing
EgyptAir wholly owns EgyptAir Express and Air Sinai. The airline has stakes in Air Cairo (60%) and Smart Aviation Company (20%).
In 2004, EgyptAir became the first IOSA certified airline in Africa.
The airline launched a regional subsidiary called EgyptAir Express with a fleet of new Embraer E-170 jets in 2006 with services commencing in 2007. The carrier links Cairo with Sharm El Sheikh, Hurghada, Luxor, Aswan, Marsa Alam, Abu Simbel and Alexandria (Egypt) in addition to secondary regional destinations to complement the parent company's pattern of service. In June 2009 the subsidiary received the last of the 12 Embraer E-170 aircraft on order.
This is fortified by huge assets of more than US$3.8 billion. The airline's financial year is from July to June. For the fiscal year ending 31 July 2007, EgyptAir achieved a record total revenue of US$1.143 billion. Total group revenue grew by 14%, as compared with the previous year.
In early 2007, the airline partnered with the Egyptian Ministry of Civil Aviation and 'Egyptian Holding Company for Airports & Air Navigation' to form a new corporate airline, Smart Aviation Company, based at Cairo Airport.
An EgyptAir Boeing 737-800 in old livery at Frankfurt Airport in 2013
In 2009, EgyptAir's operations at its Cairo International Airport hub (where it holds 61% of the airport's departure slots) were notably overhauled due to the inauguration of the new Terminal 3 in April 2009. The airline transferred all its operations (international and domestic) to the new terminal that has more than doubled the airport's capacity. Under the Star Alliance “Move Under One Roof” concept at Cairo Airport, all Star Alliance member carriers serving Cairo have moved to the new Terminal 3. In 2010 the airline will overhaul operations at its Alexandria base by transferring operations from the older facilities at Alexandria International Airport to the brand new airport in Borg El Arab Airport. The airline's CEO also stated the company was evaluating whether to set up a low cost carrier subsidiary for its Alexandria operations to address the growth of LCCs in the city.
During the 2009-2010 Paris Airshow, the airline announced a new venture with US lessor Aviation Capital Group (ACG) and other Egyptian private and public shareholders to establish a leasing joint venture focusing on the Middle East and Northern Africa region. The new joint venture - named Civil Aviation Finance and Operating Leases (CIAF-Leasing) will initially focus on narrowbody aircraft.
The carrier is a conditional member of Arabesk Airline Alliance and the Arab Air Carriers Organization, until such time as it corrects human rights abuses.
Disruption caused by civil unrest - 2011
Following the revolution of 2011, Egyptair is reported to have suffered considerable losses. Egypt's civil aviation minister Wael El Maadawi said the airline lost an estimated 1.3 billion Egyptian pounds, or around $185 million, over the 2012/13 fiscal year, mainly due to an increase in fuel prices, the devaluation of the Egyptian currency and continuous strikes within the company. Losses for 2011/12 were apparently around double the 2012/13 figures. The carrier has reportedly suffered total losses of more than 7bn pounds, or nearly $1bn, since the 2011 uprising