31-Jan-2011 11:34 AM

Airlines and governments assess plans as Egypt tension escalates

Egypt’s Cairo International Airport has been besieged by passengers seeking to depart as the political crisis continues (Third Age/Los Angeles Times/Arab News/Sydney Morning Herald/Associated Press, 31-Jan-2011). Thousands of passengers crowded into the airport’s main terminal over the weekend but a number of airlines have cancelled, delayed or temporarily suspended service following the violent unrest in the capital. Egypt’s tourism will suffer immensely as a result of the conflict, which accounts for around 11% of GDP. Other major travel destinations, including resorts on the Red Sea coast, remain unaffected. Stock markets across the region have plummeted, with the Cairo Stock Exchange closing after recording a 16% fall in two days. The Egyptian pound has fallen to six-year lows. 

Government, airline and airport responses include:

  • A bmi service to Cairo turned around mid-flight, with the airline stating the decision was taken as there was a change in the night curfew at Cairo International, which would have made it impossible to a land;
  • US, France and Germany have issued warnings to citizens, urging them to cancel non-essential travel to Cairo and, if already there, to remain indoors;
  • US State Department is preparing to airlift thousands of US citizens on chartered aircraft. The department stated charters will commence on 31-Jan-2011 and carry citizens to Athens, Istanbul and Nicosia. Americans taking the charter will be billed for the cost of the service;
  • El Al is arranging a special service to transport 200 Israeli tourists out of the country;
  • British Airways has modified its departure time so aircraft will not land during curfew hours. BA added it would send a charter aircraft to Cairo to carry passengers back to the UK;
  • Lufthansa cancelled both of its two scheduled flights to Cairo on Saturday;
  • Air Berlin cancelled one flight to Cairo;
  • Air Arabia has changed schedules to ensure it operates within the curfew;
  • Delta Air Lines said service to Cairo would be "indefinitely suspended as a result of civil unrest";
  • LOT has cancelled services to Cairo;
  • flydubai cancelled services to Alexandria over the weekend because of the curfew, and has announced delays to other Egypt services;
  • Emirates cancelled two services to Cairo over the weekend, but stated it plans to continue to operate services throughout the crisis;
  • KLM is continuing to operate a daily service to Cairo, but has changed its schedule to comply with the curfew;
  • Alitalia stated it has also adjusted its schedule to account for the curfew;
  • EgyptAir announced passengers should expect delays to services, with some crew members unable to reach the airport and remain concerned about the commute from the city to the airport;
  • Iberia warned passengers to expect changes in schedules;
  • Wataniya Airways announced it would add extra services to Cairo to assist the Kuwait Government's efforts to evacuate all stranded nationals;
  • Royal Jordanian has increased capacity to Cairo, operating six-times daily services to transport citizens to Jordan;
  • Kuwait Airways denied reports it had suspended services to Cairo, and confirmed Cairo services are operating as normal;
  • Iraq’s Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki dispatched his presidential aircraft to Egypt to pick up Iraqi citizens, and the transport ministry ordered free transportation for Iraqis living in Egypt on Iraqi Airways aircraft;
  • India has sent an Air India B747 to Cairo to evacuate citizens;
  • Japan announced plans to charter aircraft to pick up an estimated 600 Japanese nationals in Cairo;
  • Canada announced it is sending chartered aircraft to Egypt to bring citizens to Canada;
  • Jetairfly is working on an evacuation plan due to start on 31-Jan-2011 for passengers in Egypt;
  • Korea’s embassy in Cairo is urging Korean nationals to leave the country;
  • Saudi Arabian Airlines announced it has increased Cairo services to 18 times daily to assist in the evacuation of Saudi nationals. The airline operates to Cairo, Alexandria, Borg El-Arab and Sharm el-Sheikh.