Egypt expresses dismay at 'unilateral' British Airways flight suspension

Our Foreign Staff
British Airways has incurred the wrath of the Egyptian authorities for its decision to suspend flights to Cairo for a week. - Reuters

Egypt has expressed its dismay after British Airways made a unilateral decision to suspend flights to the capital Cairo for a seven day period.

The aviation ministry made its anger clear after it emerged that the decision to suspend flight to Cairo had been taken on the advice of an internal British Airways security audit, not an instruction from the UK’s intelligence services or the Department of Transport.

Egypt issued a strongly worded statement following a meeting Britain’s ambassador to Egypt, Geoffrey Adams, condemning the British Airways decision and the lack of co-ordination with Egyptian airport authorities. 

The aviation minister, Younis Al-Masry, "expressed his displeasure at British Airways taking a decision unilaterally concerning the security of Egyptian airports without referring to the competent Egyptian authorities," the statement said. 

British Airways sources confirmed that it had taken the decision, which affects one flight per day, based on internal assessment of its security adviser and indicated that it had no immediate plans to change that decision.

In a statement the airline attributed its cancellations to what it called its constant review of security arrangements at all airports, describing them as "a precaution” to allow for further assessment.

“We would never operate an aircraft unless it was safe to do so,” it added. The German airline Lufthansa briefly suspended flights on Saturday but restarted them soon after. Other major carriers, including Air France, Emirates and Etihad, all confirmed yesterday that they were continuing to operate full schedules to Cairo.

  The Egyptian government statement added that the UK ambassador had apologised for not informing Egyptian authorities before the decision was made and cited him as saying the flight suspension was not related to the security measures at Egyptian airports.

Tourism, a key source of foreign revenue for Egypt, has been recovering after visitor numbers dropped in the wake of a 2011 uprising and the 2015 bombing of a Russian jet, which killed all 224 people on board shortly after takeoff.

That attack, which was claimed by Islamic State, prompted Russia to halt all flights to Egypt for several years and a number of countries including Britain to cease flights to the Red Sea resort of Sharm el Sheikh, which have yet to resume. 

Meanwhile some customers criticised British Airways for failing to arrange direct alternative flights after cancelling the service.

Among those impacted was a 51-year-old IT consultant from London, who gave only his first name, Ramy, who was trying to arrange an alternative flight for his 80-year-old father in Cairo but was not satisfied with the British Airways offer.

“They’ve offered him a flight to Frankfurt, but no idea what happens from there,” he said. “He is 80 years old, and we want a direct flight.”