Egyptian companies have been affected by the over 50-day suspension of flights during Umrah season which usually represents 40% of these companies’ operations.
Usually, a number of Egyptian companies fly to several airports in Saudi Arabia.
An official in EgyptAir said that the company’s flights to Jeddah and Medina were not affected by the suspension of Umrah programmes in Egypt. He told Daily News Egypt that what affected EgyptAir was the cancellation of additional flights throughout the peak time of this minor pilgrimage. The most popular times for Umrah are during the celebrations of the prophet’s birth, or in the two months of Sha’ban and Ramadan.
Youssry Abdel Wahab, the head of Egypt’s Air Transport Association, said the majority of flights to Saudi Arabia’s Yanbu and Jeddah airports carried pilgrims. There are no reservations currently due to the new, higher cost of the Umrah visa which was recently decided. Now, this visa costs almost as much as the pilgrimage itself.
“The new fees have made tourism companies and individuals unable to [operate at the same levels],” he said.
Abdel Wahab said in a press release that flights between the two countries have declined by 50% over the past period, particularly private Egyptian and Saudi flights. Many airlines have reduced the number of their flights to Saudi Arabia, while some have cancelled all trips due to the declining operation rates.
“There are many risks threatening these companies’ survival in the market. Arab companies will beat out Egyptian companies if ticket prices increase and the Umrah season is hampered,” Abdel Wahab said.
Ashraf Lamloum, vice head of the Air Transportation Association and chairperson of Nesma Airlines, said the number of passengers on the planes of private companies has declined by 40%.
He explained that the decline seen on Egyptian planes is due to the price increase of tickets and the Saudi visa, which has caused the Umrah season to falter.
Private Egyptian airline companies depend on their flights to Gulf countries, especially to Saudi Arabia.
Amari Abdelazim, head of the tourism and aviation committee in the Chamber of Commerce, said that increasing the cost of flights by 40-50% will result in a reduced number of people travelling from Egypt.
All prices have increased after the flotation of the Egyptian pound, including the prices of Umrah and pilgrimage which he said will increase by 30%.
Abdelazim added that the decision by the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) to float the Egyptian pound came at an unsuitable time for the current circumstances.