Sunday 25 September 2016

UK aviation experts gave green light to Egypt airport

Raf Sanchez

Published 12/11/2015 | 02:30

A passenger is searched by a security guard at Sharm el-Sheikh airport in Egypt
A passenger is searched by a security guard at Sharm el-Sheikh airport in Egypt

British aviation experts analysed security at Sharm el-Sheikh just weeks before the alleged bombing of a Russian airliner but did not raise concerns about safety, a senior Egyptian official has said.

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Khaled Fouda, the governor of South Sinai province, said Egypt was taken aback by Britain's decision to suspend flights because UK teams had been visiting the airport regularly all year and had given the green light for flights to continue.

"Every two months a British team comes to look at our equipment and our procedures and they say there are no problems.

"I don't know why it is upside down now," said Mr Fouda.

Questions

His claims raise questions about whether previous inspections by British experts missed security flaws at the airport - flaws that only came to light after the Metrojet airliner went down in the Sinai desert, killing all 224 aboard.

Those problems, which led to the suspension of all British flights, included poor CCTV on baggage handlers, dark corners that were difficult to monitor, and staff on X-ray machines being distracted by their phones.

At the airport yesterday, Mr Sisi promised that the Egyptian-led investigation into the cause of the crash would be conducted with "utmost transparency and integrity".

Ten British flights left the airport on Tuesday night, carrying 2,218 people.

Around half of the 20,000 Britons who were stranded in the resort have now been flown home.

Meanwhile, tourism bookings in the Red Sea resort have plunged in the wake of the crash.

Some 80pc of reservations have been cancelled and at least 40pc of tourists have left the Egyptian resort since the crash, said Hussein Fawzy, head of the region's chamber of tourist facilities.

"They are not going to come back again. We will have nothing but a few Ukrainians and Belarusians," he said by telephone.

Moscow has banned all flights to Egypt for at least several months, a severe blow for the tourism industry during the peak season for Russian visitors. Britain and Ireland have suspended flights to Sharm el-Sheikh.

U.S. and British officials say the cause of the October 31 crash, was likely a bomb planted on the plane.

Battered by years of political turmoil, Egypt's vital tourism sector has been almost completely dependent on Russian and European tourists visiting Sharm el-Sheikh and other Red Sea resorts.

Eastern European visitors, including people from former Soviet satellite states like Ukraine, made up 45pc of all tourist arrivals in June.

Earlier yesterday, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi made a surprise visit to the Sharm el-Sheikh airport.

Wading

"Our visit today aims to reassure people inside and outside Egypt," el-Sissi said after greeting some foreign tourists and wading through a packed terminal.

"We want people who come here to be secure and safe and to live and go back safely to their countries," he said.

The Metrojet Airbus A321 crashed in the Sinai Peninsula shortly after takeoff from Sharm el-Sheikh en route to St. Petersburg.

Most of the passengers were Russian tourists returning home.

El-Sissi said authorities have carried out regular checks on all airports over the past few months, and that other countries had been involved in the inspections.

Moscow has said its ban on flights is necessary because of concerns about security at Egypt's airports.

Kremlin chief of staff Sergei Ivanov said that the ban was expected to last for at least several months.

Irish Independent

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