News ‘Heightened risk’: British Airways suspends flights to Cairo

‘Heightened risk’: British Airways suspends flights to Cairo

British Airways has apologised after smoke filled the plane cabin's without warning during flight BA422. Photo: Getty
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The UK and US governments fear passenger planes could be targeted by terrorists over Egyptian airspace or in the country’s airports, leading Britain’s national carrier to suspend flights to and from the capital.

But Australian services continue to accept bookings for flights to Cairo operated by partner airlines.

British Airways was one of two airlines to temporarily ban flights to Egypt at the weekend, but would not detail publicly the reason for the heightened concerns.

The freeze is expected to remain in place for at least seven days.

The US also updated its Egypt travel warnings on Friday, for the first time since December 2016.

“Due to risks to civil aviation operating within or in the vicinity of Egypt, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) and/or a Special Federal Aviation Regulation (SFAR),” the US Department of State warned.

The Australian government currently warns against travel to the country.
The Australian government currently warns against travel to the country. Photo: Getty

Whether other airlines would follow suit remained unclear.

A Lufthansa flight has landed in Cairo, a day after the German airline suspended its routes to the Egyptian capital.

Lufthansa also said it had cancelled flights to the Egyptian capital while an evaluation of the situation was taking place but later said normal flights would resume on Sunday.

Lufthansa flight 582 arrived on Sunday in Cairo from Frankfurt after a 90-minute delay, sources at Cairo airport said.

Passengers leaving Australia were on Sunday night still able to book to fly to Egypt using the Qantas website, and the airline would not answer questions about plans to change services.

Qantas passengers can fly from Australia to Dubai and then board a service to Cairo, operated by Emirates.

The airline did not say whether any of its flights would be affected, but the flight options remained on its booking website.

Citing Egyptian airport security officials, Reuters reported that British workers had examined security at Cairo’s main airport on Wednesday and Thursday.

The Australian government warns against travel to the country, saying: “Overall reconsider your need to travel due to the threat of terrorist attack and kidnapping.”

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade advised on July 20 that  British Airways said it had suspended flights to Cairo for seven days as a security precaution.

The department said they were closely reviewing the travel advice.

Qantas is still selling Emirates flights to the middle-eastern country on its website. Photo: AAP
Qantas is still selling flights to the middle-eastern country on its website. Photo: AAP

“We continue to advise Australians to ‘reconsider their need to travel’ to Egypt due to the threat of terrorist attack,” a spokesperson said. 

On Saturday, British Airways began turning away Cairo-bound passengers at boarding gates, prompting a backlash from customers who were left with little more than an explanation letter.

German airline Lufthansa also said it had suspended flights, but signalled it would resume services on Sunday (local time).

British Airlines made the surprise announcement on Saturday evening, leaving many passengers stranded.

“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,” the airline said in a statement.

“The safety and security of our customers and crew is always our priority, and we would never operate an aircraft unless it was safe to do so.”

In its statement, Lufthansa said it was also suspending its flights as a precaution.

It comes as the UK Foreign Ministry announced there was a heightened risk to aviation safety in the area.

“There’s a heightened risk of terrorism against aviation,” the UK government announced on its travel advice page for Egypt.

“Additional security measures are in place for flights departing from Egypt to the UK. You should co-operate fully with security officials at airports.”

Youssef Chouhoud, a political scientist at Christopher Newport University in Virginia, tweeted that his flight from London’s Heathrow Airport had been cancelled and asked why other airlines were not following suit.

“What does @British_Airways know about the security situation in Cairo that we don’t??” he said.

Passengers left stranded by the snap decision shared a letter handed out by British Airways staff.

“Currently about to board a British Airways flight to Cairo and it’s cancelled,” one BA customer wrote.

“Not for a day. Not for two days but for seven. Security risk. Someone knows something we don’t.”

In 2015, a Russian Metrojet Flight 9268 exploded over Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, killing 224 people on board after it is believed a bomb was placed inside the plane.

Emirates did not respond to questions from The New Daily before deadline.