Q & A: With Ihab Seif the Regional General Manager of Southern Africa, EGYPTAIR Airlines

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What values does your business pride itself on?
Egypt Air has been running for 79 years. In 1932, we were the first carrier in Africa and Middle East, and one of only seven who serviced the world back in the 30s. For Egypt Air, ethics is something inherent in our business strategy and people are EgyptAir’s fundamental strength. I would say we pride ourselves on respect, integrity and trust. Social responsibility is the true nature of Egyptian civilisation and so we aspire to give a helping hand for humanitarian entities in true partnership.

What are growth plans for the company?

EGYPTAIR has one of the youngest fleets in the industry. This fleet of 85 modern aircrafts is serving 26 main airports in Europe alone through Cairo’s newest Terminal 3 – EGYPTAIR exclusive Hub. We make a huge contribution in Africa – currently we are servicing 16 destinations in Africa and by the end of 2015/2016 we will be servicing 32. Though we have joint plans with SAA for central Africa, our focus will also prioritize plans for South Africa. It is well known that we were not servicing SA during the apartheid era, but when we started again in 1992 it took only four years before we became ‘the most popular carrier’ here. We feel that we are in natural harmony with the national carrier and we endeavour to grow with them.

What are some of the challenges your company faces and how has the economic and political climate impacted on your business?

During the movement in Egypt, we had a period where our terminal in Cairo had a 12-hour curfew, and yet we still managed to see one million passengers walk through those gates in a week. Cairo and OR Tambo International airports are of the highest international standards. I have experience of different airports in Europe and I can dare say that ours are among the best. Being African, we have to forget about being far from the modern world.

In Egypt, a civilised change took place, contrary to what biased media reported. If this was not the case, the British Prime Minister would not have walked through Tahrir Square. In my viewpoint, the economic crisis led to increased levels of unemployment and suffering beyond our imagination that affected different strata of all societies. Leaders of the world cannot claim that they are not responsible for that crisis. There are double standards on democracy and equality – including the latest veto at the UN Security Council. It is really time for the world to act upon the fact that economic interests cannot be at the expense of others. When it comes to my country, Egypt, it has always been genuine to its generation and its people’s values. It has had its Egyptian social contract in place for thousands of years and it is as strong now as it has ever been.

There isn’t unrest in Egypt. The fact is, there is a civilized, peaceful change. The moment of tension – short as it was – that has taken place is now behind us and it has very much to do with the economic crisis butterfly effect that has taken place all over the world. The world can be proud of high-tech and glass buildings, but true civilisation comes from human behaviour. The poorest in Egypt welcome you and treat you as a guest that has priority over themselves. The great poet T.S. Elliot said we are ‘dust of dust’, and so when we meet our fellow human beings who may be poor and have dust on their faces we should remember that we are nothing but dust. In my 20 years at Egypt Air, I have met several nationalities and have seen how similar we all are.

What makes your business stand out amongst competition?

We never claim perfection but by international standards we are one of the best. This has a lot to do with the fact that we are 100% in harmony with our staff. Regardless of nationality, at the heart of our values, we respect the essence of our staff and give them their right to be as natural as possible in a state of equilibrium. You feel the human touch in the way they deal with you and are given a quality of service that is naturally considerate.

What is your perception of where the aviation industry is going?

The world is now in an L-Curve economic cycle and we have to cope. In the past two years there has been no real improvement. But this has been the case in the past where it had been followed by periods of four or five years of improvement. Now the upward cycles are much shorter and we are moving at a two-year pattern. This is a challenge like never before for our generation that has to develop new tools to conform to this matter.

How can people reach you?

We invite everyone to visit our website egyptair.com and to benefit from the services this state-of-the-art site provides, a huge investment on our part. We are, in fact, also very prominent in social media like facebook and twitter and we are listed high with search engines.  You can contact us on:   +27 011 537 7640.