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Egypt's new presidential jumbo jet set to cost $500m

Egyptian MP says plane actually costs no more than $240m, as purchase branded unjustifiable in a time of economic turmoil
Airbus A320 aircraft of Nile Air, Egypt's largest private airline and second largest operator, on the tarmac at Cairo International Airport, 27 September 2021 (AFP)
Airbus A320 aircraft of Nile Air, Egypt's largest private airline and second largest operator, on the tarmac at Cairo International Airport, 27 September 2021 (AFP)

The Egyptian government is set to receive a new presidential jumbo jet at a cost of $500m, as the country struggles to generate foreign currency for imports and tackle inflation.

Egypt has acquired a Boeing 747-8 aircraft, seen last week in Shannon in Ireland, where it was undergoing coating and painting work by International Aerospace Coatings (IAC).

Simple Flying, an aviation news website, reported that the German airliner Lufthansa had sold one of its Boeing 747-8 passenger planes to an "unidentified customer" in 2020.

Furthermore, it revealed this week that the 747-8 jet would become an Egyptian executive aircraft, taking SU-GGG registration, and that it will replace the 28-year-old presidential Airbus A340.

Egyptian media reported that the deal to buy one of Lufthansa's fleet aircraft, which Boeing had built with new technology in 2011, had cost almost $500m.

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Boeing asked Lufthansa to keep one of its 747-8s in the United States for testing and demonstration. In 2021, the plane was registered as SU-EGY after being bought by the Egyptian government and transported to Germany for maintenance and the installation of a new interior.

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

Mustafa al-Bakri, an Egyptian MP and writer, denied the new plane cost $500m, saying the price was no more than $240m.

Bakri said on Thursday that the presidential Airbus A340, currently used by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, was in a dilapidated condition and would be retired in 2023.

"The presidential plane in any country contains means that allow the president of the republic and his assistant team to manage state affairs through advanced technological means," Bakri said.

"The value of the new presidential plane is $240m. [Sisi] initially refused the $500m price, and said he wanted simple features, so the price went down to $240m, and the plane was acquired in 2020, before the economic crisis," he added.

Financial crisis

Critics say the price of the plane is unjustifiable and comes at a time when Egypt is struggling to import tea and essential goods as its foreign currency reserve in the banks is diminishing.

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Talaat Khalil, the secretary-general of Egypt's Conservative Party, wrote that the government already has 24 planes and could use one for presidential trips.

Khalil criticised the government for buying "a luxury plane with £500m" while at the same time holding meetings with lights turned off to signal to citizens that the country was heading into austerity.

"This matter left a bad impression on the people and made them confused, and everyone asks what is the reason that made the presidency buy this plane in light of a very serious economic crisis,” Khalil wrote.

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

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