EGYPTAIR is Africa’s oldest airline, having been founded as far back as 1932. Along with South African Airways, Ethiopian Airlines and Kenya Airways, it’s one of Africa’s ‘Big Four’ airlines, and flies to a host of destinations both within Africa and further abroad. It prides itself on its young fleet, and Johannesburg-based Regional General Manager Southern Africa, Ihab Seif, recently joined editor Dylan Rogers for a chat about the changes the airlines has made to its fleet and what the future holds for EGYPTAIR.
Q: Tell us about your new fleet and the standout features you feel will appeal to business travellers?
A: Most appealing to the business traveller will be our “time consciousness” and our efficient Cairo hub, Terminal Building 3. Also, the full service features for check-in and on board, with Wi-Fi on the B777-300 and AB330-300; less total journey hours and seamless connectivity at TB3 with 24/7 operations; VIP meet and assist on request; and a state-of-the-art conferencing experience and sky bridge at TB3 Le Meridien, the new hotel that opened in December.
Q: How competitive is the premium travel (business, first class etc) space, and how do you stay ahead of the curve?
A: We try and stay ahead through global marketing research, which EGYPTAIR implements in partnership with three top international market research companies. That’s how we ensure high customer satisfaction levels. Our strategy of having only a very young fleet also remains a major plus.
Q: How important is technology to your business, and what role do you see it playing in more efficient business travel?
A: We live in a modern world with different requirements for both businessmen and women. With e-commerce we can achieve all these requirements, such as self-service features being introduced with the best technology partners: Microsoft, Google and IBM specifically. We meet the requirements of business people by providing all ‘on-the-move’ mobile and online applications. That’s from the start of the travel planning process, modified as you fly, and covering the total EGYPTAIR flying experience. This includes Windows, Android and Blackberry-compatible applications, Facebook etc, all the way through to our latest Instagram online EGYPTAIR networking service.
Q: Have you made any changes to your loyalty programme in recent times, and how do you make it appealing for regular travellers?
A: Validity miles are valid for a period of 36 months. The EGYPTAIR frequent flyer product offers unique benefits. One example is EGYPTAIR Plus, where the main member is presented with the opportunity to add and link an additional five members (first-degree family), which leads to fast upgrading to Silver and Gold status. EGYPTAIR’s focus remains incorporating and broadening the existing network of partners in all different aspects. Partners already affiliated with our frequent flyer products include car rental, banking, cell phone and accommodation partners, not to mention EGYPTAIR’s Star Alliance membership, where travellers can earn frequent flyer miles with all member airlines.
Q: How much have incidents of violence in Cairo affected your business in recent times?
A: Business all over the world took a slight dip. We are happy to announce that the revolution and changes thereafter have seen one of the most peaceful transitions.
Q: How do you change negative perception and convince travellers that Cairo is a safe place to travel to?
A: No other testimonial can be more positive than the fact that more than 30 million tourists visited Egypt between 2011 and 2013. Only concrete facts regarding their visits have led them to convey a positive message by word of mouth. Be it tourist opportunities or business opportunities, both are unmatched in Egypt today for those who live the facts of the world, rather than live in a ‘TV media’ box.
Q: Do you think the African airline business is in a healthy state?
A: Comparatively, yes, particularly if you take into account the ongoing efforts and collaboration among the African carriers.
Q: What are the major issues facing Africa’s airlines?
A: With the exception of Egypt and South Africa, infrastructure and huge costs remain the major issues. As a leading player in the African Airlines Association (AFRAA) and the Arab Air Carriers Organisation (AACO), EGYPTAIR is playing a vital role in implementing industry best practice in Africa and the Middle East, as this offers an excellent model for airlines operating in what is an increasingly competitive industry.
Q: Can we expect any new EgyptAir routes in Africa in 2014?
A: EGYPTAIR’s current strategic plan has a clear focus on Africa. South and West Africa can expect more flights from EGYPTAIR in 2014 and 2015, with direct flights as always.