Previously, we published a report detailing how Egypt has a diverse airline landscape split between dominating government carriers and private carriers desperate for help during the current crisis. But airlines are nothing without airport destinations to fly to, and so today, we will cover the other side of the aviation coin – Egypt’s airports.
With 28 facilities spread across this large country, as well as government investments, Egypt has one of the most promising airport landscapes on the African continent and can be a challenge for anyone to summarise succinctly. This report will cover the highlights and how they have created the dynamic that is Egyptian aviation.
Cairo International Airport
First, it’s best to understand the general layout and where every airport sits in the ranking. According to IATA numbers in 2019, Cairo International Airport (CAI) dominated the landscape with 18.95 million passengers (45,000 passengers short of 19 million), 45 airlines and destinations spanning the world. Easily this airport is the busiest in all of the country, and unfortunately, the most congested. Despite having three runways and three terminals (including a fourth private terminal), the airport is choking on passengers and desperately needs its capacity to be spread to other airports in the region (see below).
“The airport operator has drawn up all necessary studies to build the new terminal to reduce traffic at the airport’s other three (public) terminals,” airport chairman Ahmed Fawzy said in a statement to Mumberger, but whether or not these plans have been acted on yet remains to be seen.
Since the beginning of 2020, this airport has seen the biggest decrease in passengers in the country, with most international flights suspended. Local carriers still performed domestic operations, but it wasn’t until mid-year in July when the country considered reopening to foreign guests. To help accommodate passengers and ensure secure biosecurity at the borders, the government has imposed a strict PCR test that is needed 72 hours before arrival. Also, each airport has been fitted with thermal cameras and a comprehensive sanitization plan.
“A work plan had been developed, including inspecting the country’s airports continuously to ensure implementation of all procedures and controls taken by the Civil Aviation Ministry,” Minister Mohamed Manar had said in the same Mumberger report.
Other Cairo Airports
With 20 million people living in the greater Cairo area, it’s no surprise that there are two other airports of note serving the local population. The new Capital International Airport, located some 70 km away from the city center, will be used for official government business, local residences along the Suez Canal and fly up to 300 passengers per hour (roughly up to three flights).
“The importance of the Capital Airport is that it partially eases the pressure on Cairo International Airport and Sphinx Airport,” Aviation Minister Younis Al-Masry told reporters at a ceremony last year to Reuters after a flight left Cairo and landed at the new airport, which is about 48 km (30 miles) from the city.
The second airport (with a more imaginative name) is Sphinx International Airport. Located to the west of the city (as opposed to the east like the Capital Airport), this facility serves the local western population of the city and tourist attractions like the Sphinx and the new Grand Egyptian Museum. However, unlike the Capital Airport, without an international tourism market (thanks to the current crisis), this airport has seen little use since 2019 and currently has no scheduled services.
That being said, the government has had the foresight to see the Sphinx International Airport as the lynchpin of the future of Cairo’s aviation landscape and moved forward with plans to built a 2nd passenger terminal. The new terminal will have a capacity of 600 passengers per hour. This should increase airport capacity from 300 passengers an hour to around 1.000, or 1.2 million travelers annually.
Officially the second busiest airport in the country, Hurghada Airport saw 7.5 million passengers in 2019. The airport serves the named city and has also found itself a popular destination for leisure flights to the Red Sea. The government has invested heavily in the airport, building a new terminal two at the cost of $335 million US to upgrade its capacity to 13 million passengers for the start of the decade. While passengers may not return to the region for some time, it is well future-proofed for incredible growth.
This airport has benefited from the borders reopening, with four flights a week from Western Europe helping stimulate the local economy.
Sharm El Sheikh Airport
Sharm El Sheikh Airport is the third busiest airport in Egypt, with 5.8 million passengers back in 2019. The airport is a twin of Hurghada Airport, although geographically located on the other side of the red sea. Because of its distance to Cairo (and the sea in-between), it has also found a lucrative domestic destination for local internal airlines. So much so that Egypt Air made plans to station its Airbus A220 fleet at the seaside resort airport.
The airport has two terminals. The international facility expands up to 9 million passengers as part of the government’s 2030-year plan (increasing the gates from 8 to 12), giving the overall airport up to 20 million passengers per year (to match Cairo International Airport).
Alexandria Bog El Arab Airport
The last major airport on this list (but in no way any less significant than others) is the Alexandria airport. This airport serves the country’s cultural capital (once dubbed the Riviera of the Middle East), the Nile Delta. It is a popular destination for flights heading north of the country – back in 2019, receiving 2.2 million passengers.
The Ministry of Aviation announced its cooperation with the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to carry out the project on an area of 34.000 square meters, aiming to increase the passenger capacity of the airport to 6 million per year.
Interestingly, this airport is only as popular because of the closure of the fellow Alexandria airport El Nouzha Airport. The previous airport was undergoing renovation and expansion during the Arab Spring and has not recovered since those events, despite having a new runway, seem ready.
Investing in aviation’s future
The main take away from understanding this landscape is how involved the government is in future-proofing its airport landscape. With investments to the airports above and others not mentioned, Egypt is likely to have an excellent domestic market for decades to come and arguably the best in Africa. This is in line with Egypt’s 2030 vision’s strategic goals, aiming to achieve economic development, revitalize tourism, increase passenger traffic, and boost development rates in various governorates. The plan will focus on improving the airports that see the most traffic, such as in the Cario region, to developing regional centers poised for explosive growth like along the Red Sea.
Launching the program back in 2019, Minister of Civil Aviation Younes el Masry said that there would be a “leap in the Egyptian civil aviation industry” into the future.
For firms looking to invest in the continent, then Egpyt has one of the best dynamic start-up friendly conditions – especially if investing in the new airports undergoing expansion. For more insight into the local market or a supplier for your AOG/MRO needs in Egypt, consider Eways Aviation. With international solutions adapted for local realities, we are the best partners for the region and much more. Get in touch today.