It has been a difficult year for many since that tragic accident a year ago – not least for the poor victims and their families who were directly affected.
Since then Egypt has spent over £20m on improving their airport security standards. They are now believed to have some of the highest standards in any African country. The Egyptian government has been working with the British security firm, Control Risks, to implement a new aviation security program that includes recruiting and training 7,000 staff at airports across Egypt. Although many European countries have recently lifted their flight ban – including Germany and Belgium – the UK (and Russia) have not. They are now coming under increasing pressure to do so. The ban itself has caused much confusion making the situation in the Sinai even more difficult. Although most countries made it clear that Sharm el Sheikh itself is safe, much of the media painted the picture differently. Some people even believed that the airport itself was closed. The Sharm flight ban has also affected the rest of Egypt with widespread misapprehension that all of Egypt is off-limits. In fact, flights to all other Egyptian airports are, in general, operating normally.
In the UK airlines and tour operators, plus hotel owners and Nile cruise companies, have recently joined forces to create the Travel Industry Egypt Advisory Group, aimed at overturning the Sharm flight ban. Rasha Azaizi, Director of the Egyptian State Tourist Office in London, says: “No other country apart from Russia still has a flight ban on flights to Sharm el Sheikh.” Sir Gerald Howarth MP, chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Egypt, has also written to the Prime Minister asking for a swift reversal of the ban.
This is important as airlines plan their schedules several months in advance. A few UK airlines are currently selling flights to Sharm el Sheikh from February 2017 onwards but if the UK government does not lift the ban these will be cancelled, in line with the “rolling cancellations” we have seen all year. Sadly Monarch has just announced they are “cancelling all flight and holiday bookings to Sharm el Sheikh for the foreseeable future”. The Chief Executive, Andrew Swaffield, said: “Much hard work has been done by the UK and Egyptian Governments, along with the travel industry, to improve safety measures at Sharm el Sheikh Airport ………If and when the airport does reopen then we will assess whether we start flights and holidays again.”
The Good News
The good news is that many countries are now operating direct flights to Sharm el Sheikh again. These include Italy, Germany, Poland, Belgium, Turkey, and Ukraine. For UK holidays makers wanting to come Sharm flights can easily be booked with EgyptAir and British Airways via Cairo. Alternatively book with Turkish Airlines or Pegasus via Istanbul. But surely it cannot be long before the UK will follow suit and lift their Sharm flight ban and life can go back to normal.
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