British Airways, Poland's LOT Suspend Egypt Flights as Unrest Hurts Demand

British Airways and Polish carrier LOT said they’ll cut routes to Egypt and Air France revealed it will reduce frequencies in North Africa as political turmoil in Arab states hurts demand for air travel.

British Airways will scrap flights to the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh from May 2, according to spokeswoman Cathy West. Polskie Linie Lotnicze LOT SA will halt services to Cairo on the same date through June 30, it said today in a statement.

BA is exiting Sharm El-Sheikh for “commercial reasons,” West said, while LOT, which will also suspend flights to Beirut and Damascus, cited “lower levels of passenger interest” amid “the unstable social-political situations in the region.”

Passenger numbers on routes to the Middle East and Africa slumped 2.5 percent last month versus a year earlier, even as the overall total rose 6.3 percent, International Consolidated Airlines Group SA, the parent company of British Airways, said today. Air France has adjusted its timetable to take account of lower demand in North Africa, spokeswoman Brigitte Barrand said.

British Airways had introduced its service from London’s Gatwick airport to Sharm El-Sheikh in October 2009. The carrier, which merged with Spain’s Iberia to form IAG in January, will retain flights from London Heathrow to Cairo, West said.

LOT said operations to the Egyptian capital have been especially disrupted because of limits on night flying. The Warsaw-based company will suspend services to Lebanon from May 7 through June 23 and to Syria from May 12 through June 20.

Redeployed

Air France’s revised summer schedule features fewer frequencies to Tunisia, Ivory Coast and Egypt -- as well as Libya, which is currently subject to a no-fly zone -- Barrand said by telephone. The capacity freed up has been redeployed to growth markets such as Brazil and China, and overall seating is “virtually unchanged,” she said.

“Air France is of course regularly monitoring its flight figures and may reexamine its schedule during the season depending on how the situation evolves,” Barrand said.

Deutsche Lufthansa AG (LHA), Europe’s second-biggest airline, has no plans to alter its flight schedules to the Middle East, spokesman Boris Ogursky said in a telephone interview.

Unrest in Arab states cut global traffic by about 1 percent in February, the International Air Transport Association said March 29. Carriers in African countries, including Egypt and Tunisia, suffered most, with traffic dropping 13 percent compared with January levels, the industry group said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Steven Rothwell in London at srothwell@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chad Thomas at cthomas16@bloomberg.net

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