Despite geopolitical tensions resulting in a drop in travel demand, Middle East carriers are forging ahead with their expansion plans, with Egyptair and Royal Jordanian being the latest airlines to announce aircraft deals at Dubai Airshow, close on the heels of Emirates and flydubai.

Egyptair, which is currently in “phase one” of expanding its aircraft and network according to CEO Yehia Zakaria, announced that the Egypt flag carrier has signed a lease agreement with the Los Angeles-based Air Lease corporation for 18 new Boeing 737-8 aircraft.

Deliveries are scheduled between 2025 and 2026, with the airline leasing the aircraft for at least 12 years.

“The deal will help with the expansion of our fleet, to bring in a young fleet, and allow us to expand our network further,” said Zakaria, at the ongoing airshow.

Over the course of 2023, Egyptair has taken delivery of eight aircraft, including seven Airbus A321neo and one Boeing 787-9 aircraft.

As a member of the Star Alliance network, Zakaria said the airline was looking to serve as a hub for connecting passengers. The airline was also looking to announce new codeshare partnerships in its drive to strengthen its network across the African continent.

Zakaria also agreed the current geopolitical tensions, stemming from the ongoing Israel-Gaza conflict, has seen a drop in demand, but the airline remained confident the war would not affect its growth strategy in the immediate future.

Royal Jordanian signs with Boeing

Royal Jordanian, which announced a firm order for four Boeing 787-9, along with a reconfirmation of two 787-9 which were put on hold following the events of Arab Spring in 2010, was also cognisant of the ongoing conflict at its impact on the MENA carrier.

“We live in a difficult region, which has a history of such events, but we are quite a resilient airline…,” said Royal Jordanian CEO Samer Majali. “A large part of our business is tourist traffic and when travel advisories come out for the region, it hits us badly.”

Majali said the airline had seen a reduction in traffic since the start of the conflict, with the airline having to fly longer routes to avoid Israeli airspace.

The Jordan flag carrier, which posted a 27.5 million Jordanian dinar ($38,770) net profit after tax in the third quarter of 2023, seemed sceptical about results in Q4.

“The first nine months was of profitability, a small amount, but it was positive. However, we are not sure about the last quarter anymore,” Majali confirmed.

The airline, which also announced plans to retrofit its 787 fleet, said it was open to a strategic partner in the road ahead for the Jordanian carrier.

The airline currently awaits the inclusion of the six new aircraft, along with three on lease, which will be delivered in 6 to 7 years, said Majali.

(Reporting by Bindu Rai, editing by Daniel Luiz)