PARIS: British Airways suspended all flights to Cairo for a week on Saturday as a security “precaution.” British Airways cited “security concerns” for its decision, but gave no details about what prompted the move.
“We constantly review our security arrangements at all our airports around the world, and have suspended flights to Cairo for seven days as a precaution to allow for further assessment,” BA said in a statement.
The airline added that it would never operate an aircraft unless it was safe to do so. When asked by Reuters for more details about why flights to Cairo had been suspended and what security arrangements the airline was reviewing, a spokeswoman responded: “We never discuss matters of security.”
Germany’s Lufthansa followed the BA announcement by also canceling its Cairo-bound planes, but its flights from Munich and Frankfurt to Cairo International Airport resumed on Sunday.
Sherif Mohsen, a traveller, told Arab news: “We received an alert from British Airways saying their flights has been canceled for a week. We all panicked. What kind of message is this? We were saved by our agency finding an alternative through the Turkish Airlines. We were lucky, but what about the rest of the people?”
An Egyptian billionaire, Naguib Sawaris, reacted on Twitter saying: “So if security agencies in the West have information on a possible terror attack that caused BA and Lufthansa to stop flights to Egypt why not inform Egyptian security forces? Instead of this double standard isn’t it a common war on terror?”
An official source at the Egyptian Ministry of Civil Aviation said on Saturday that reports on the suspension of London-Cairo flights for seven days have not been issued by the UK Transportation Department or British Foreign Office.
The Egyptian ministry said that the verification of the source of the reports is underway in coordination with the representative of the British operator in Cairo.
The Ahram news agency said it learned from a source that a British inspection team had checked security at Cairo International Airport last week and the results were “positive.” The team praised security measures at the airport.
In response to the decision by British Airways, Egypt’s Ministry of Civil Aviation Ministry decided to increase seating capacity on EgyptAir flights heading to London, and run additional flights from Cairo to London’s Heathrow from Sunday by using the newly delivered Boeing 787 Dreamliner during the suspension period.
Adham Hassan, a pilot analyzing the situation, said Cairo airport currently had more than 4000 Algerian fans at the terminal used by Lufthansa and British Airways. He said the fans were in the lounges without tickets and were out of control. The military flight which brought them to Egypt was not allowed to wait so it left them behind, leaving the fans stuck without tickets. “I think the companies considered this a security breach and thus stopped their trips until the end of the crisis. That’s my analysis, anyway.”
Mahgoub Saeed, a political analyst, said: “The real reason is the violence carried out by the massed Algerians in Hall 4 at Cairo airport. This flight suspension will not last long and will end very soon after the violence has been ended. This is a precautionary measure often taken by airlines in the event of exposure to one of the airports in the world to rioting.”
A video spread on the social media showing Algerian fans attacking the Egyptian police and throwing stones and bottles. Algerians were present in Egypt this week supporting and celebrating their victory for the African Cup of Nations.