KLM is heading back to Cairo, at least for a little while. The Amsterdam-based airline is trialing twice-weekly flights to the Egyptian capital across September and October. KLM says it will keep an eye on how the trial goes. The airline will then decide on whether to resume permanent flights or not.
After a break of three years, KLM is going back to Cairo
KLM last flew regularly scheduled passenger flights to Cairo in 2017. But between September 9 and October 25, one of the distinctive blue and white Boeing 777-200ERs will fly into Cairo International Airport.
The flights will depart Amsterdam just in time for an in-flight dinner before touching down in Cairo just shy of midnight. The return flight will leave Cairo in the early hours of the following morning, to land in Amsterdam in time for breakfast.
Across September, the flights to Cairo will run on Wednesday and Saturday evenings. The return Amsterdam-bound flights will operate on Thursday and Sunday mornings. In October, the Cairo-bound flights will run on Wednesday and Friday evenings. The return flights to Amsterdam will operate on Thursday and Saturday mornings.
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KLM says sending its 316 seat 777-200ERs down to Egypt is part of its broader strategy to beef up its intercontinental network. The airline is concentrating on restoring destinations to its network following the travel downturn. Once an airport is back in KLM’s timetable, the airline will look at upgrading frequencies and aircraft types.
Before ending passenger flights in 2017, KLM had been flying to Egypt since 1930.
“Our history in Cairo goes back a very long time, and we are thus celebrating the 90th anniversary of our presence there, since the Royal Dutch Company made its first flight to Cairo on September 28, 1930,” said KLM Air France Director for the Near East Region, Matthieu Tétaud.
Foreign currency transfer restrictions saw KLM leave Egypt in 2017
KLM quit Egypt after flying there become uneconomic. In early 2017, the Egyptian pound got devalued by half, and the Central Bank of Egypt was imposing restrictions on foreign currency transfers from Egypt. It meant KLM could not remit its earnings in Egypt back to the Netherlands. At stake were millions of dollars. So KLM called it a day. At the time, KLM called the decision a “suspension” rather than a permanent exit.
Sister airline Air France continued operating flights into Cairo, with KLM sending its Cairo- bound passengers via Paris and onto Air France flights until now.
Prospects brighter in 2020
Egypt’s decision to limit the amount of foreign currency transfers saw foreign investment in the country slide. It came at a time when Egypt desperately needed foreign investment. The restrictions later got lifted a condition of securing a multi-billion IMF funding deal.
In 2020, KLM will be flying into a friendlier business environment in Egypt. That bodes better for the long term prospects of KLM’s Cairo service. But ultimately, it will come down to demand and bottoms on seats. KLM will face off with local airline, EgyptAir, on the Cairo-Amsterdam route. The Egyptian carrier flies four times a week to Amsterdam.
KLM says it is happy and proud to be heading back to Cairo. After 90 years of almost continuous flying to Egypt, it will be interesting to see if the airline can make the service work again.