Egyptair takes CSeries, focuses on super-regional growth

Last week’s Dubai Air Show was significant for aircraft orders, not only because of the massive Airbus and Boeing deals on Wednesday, but also because of some smaller deals signed. Bombardier (finally) inked a new deal for its CSeries. The Letter of Intent with Egyptair covers a firm order for 12 CS300 to the Cairo-based carrier with options for 12 more.

We are confident that our small single-aisle C Series is ideally-suited to serve the hot temperature environments of the region and will undoubtedly provide performance and economics that will drive higher profitability. –Fred Cromer, President, Bombardier Commercial Aircraft

Egyptair currently operates a dozen E170 jets in its regional fleet. The upgrade to the CS300 roughly doubles both capacity and range for that segment of its operations. And it is the range part of the shift that attracts attention.

The current regional network fro Egyptair Express is mostly domestic, with a handful of international destinations. The trips are relatively short hops, maxing out around 1400 miles from Cairo.

An incomplete list of international routes flown by the Egyptair Express E170 fleet
Map generated by the Great Circle Mapper - copyright © Karl L. Swartz.

By switching to the CSeries the carrier not only gets additional capacity to grow its hub operation at Cairo but also a significant boost in what destinations it can serve

We selected the C Series aircraft because its excellent range will allow us to best serve domestic and regional destinations, including neighboring Arab cities, the Middle East as well as several European destinations. This is in addition to the CS300 aircraft’s exceptional economics and outstanding cabin. We look forward to expanding our network with the CS300 and we are happy to see that the partnership announced with Airbus will bring added support to the C Series program. – Safwat Musallam, Chairman and CEO of EgyptAir Holding Company

Arguably the 170LR provides sufficient range for most of the Middle East, Europe and North Africa. Operating in the higher temperatures limits aircraft performance, shrinking the range available. The switch to a CS300 kills any such limits that might’ve affected Egyptair’s route selection on that front. A return to many now-defunct European destinations could be in the cards. So too might expansion into more African markets, an area that IATA sees as one of the fastest growing regions over the next couple decades.

The increased range provided by the CS300 versus the E170 is significant for Egyptair
The increased range provided by the CS300 versus the E170 is significant for Egyptair (Image via

Read More: Transforming the Middle East market with a premium 737

That expansion will, however, be tempered by economic and political challenges for Egypt. The country is currently a hotbed of discounted fares, particularly in premium cabins. It faces competition as a global and regional hub from several nearby airlines, including Turkish Airlines, Qatar Airways, Emirates, and Etihad. And within Africa Ethiopian Airlines is riding a wave of resurgence for regional and intercontinental traffic. There is room for competition, of course, but not all of these airlines can survive as major global connectors. And Egyptair is a significantly smaller player in the long-haul market than the others, flying only 16 twin-aisle aircraft.

Indeed, growing regionally with the CSeries may prove to be the best tactical play for the airline. Relatively low operating costs and longer range give the carrier an opportunity to deliver lower cost connectivity from Europe to secondary markets in Africa or the Middle East where nonstop flights are overkill and where the other hubs are inconveniently located. And maybe the long-haul can grow a tiny bit along with that, though the current fleet plan suggests that’s not really the focus.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

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