People, Travel

UK Airlines Extend Sinai Ban

UK Airlines Extend Sinai Ban  UK Airlines Extend Sinai Ban

A string of British airlines have again delayed the resumption of regular flights to the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh following a plane crash earlier this year.

The airlines first suspended flights after the crash of a Russian airliner near the Red Sea holiday destination on October 31 in which all 224 people on board died, according to AFP.

Investigators have concluded it was downed by a bomb and the so-called Islamic State group has claimed responsibility. Over 16,000 Britons stranded in the area were brought home on a series of rescue flights amid increased security.

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said the attack had raised doubts about “the capability of the security on the ground” at the airport.

Extending previous announcements, Thomson and Thomas Cook say they are now cancelling all flights to the resort up to and including March 23.

Monarch and easyJet have pushed their resumption dates back to January 25 and February 29 respectively.

British Airways has cancelled all flights to and from Sharm el Sheikh until February 13.

No flights have operated between the UK and Sharm el-Sheikh since 17 November, and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office advises against all but essential travel using the resort’s airport.

The UK Foreign Office currently advises against all but essential air travel to and from the resort.

Days after the downing of the Russian plane, major airlines Air France and Lufthansa stopped Sharm el-Sheikh overflights, while Russia stopped all flights into the Arab country.

Tourist numbers in Egypt have plunged in recent months. The sector is crucial to the country’s economy, employing nearly one in nine workers.

The Association of British Travel Agents has said the decision about whether to use Sharm el-Sheikh airport is being made by the UK authorities rather than the airlines, BBC reported.

Travel analyst Bob Atkinson, from Travel Supermarket, said the length of the suspension suggested that security issues at the airport were proving difficult to solve.

He said services would resume “at some point”, but added: “The longer it goes on makes you think, ‘Why are they delaying it so long if it’s as simple as making sure security checks are in place?’”

  Regaining Trust

The Egyptian government announced earlier this week it had hired global risk and security consultancy firm Control Risks to conduct a review of airports across the country.

The announcement was welcomed by British ambassador to Egypt, John Casson, who said he hoped flights would resume “as soon as possible”.

“Britain was the first to raise security concerns about Sharm airport and Britain wants to be the first to restart flights, so that tourism can lead the revival of Egypt’s economy,” he said.

The audit should take about two or three months to complete. It seems most likely that planes from the UK will be flying to Sharm el-Sheikh long before Russian airlines re-launch their service to the tourist town.