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Mohamed Frikha could not have picked a worse time to establish his airline than 2011, the year in which Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was ousted in a popular revolt that served as the spark for the Arab Spring uprisings.
Although it seemed like a period of renewal and change in Tunisia – and, indeed, the North African country has fared much better than its neighbours in the years that have followed – fortune was not smiling on Syphax.
Flag-carrier Tunisair threw down the first hurdle by instructing its ground-handling division to block its rival’s very first flight. Then airspace in Libya – a vital market for any Tunisian airline – was shut down as that country spiralled into civil war. Soon after, a pair of Daesh terror attacks targeting holidaymakers in Tunis and Sousse decimated tourism demand in Tunisia. And finally, technical problems with the airline’s Airbus A330 grounded its only long-haul route to Montreal.
“We did not have luck,” Frikha shrugs...