British Airways (BA) has announced its decision to cancel all flights to Sharm el-Sheikh indefinitely, UK-based newspaper the Independent reported on Tuesday.
“The safety and security of our customers will always be our top priorities and we have suspended our flights from Gatwick to Sharm el-Sheikh indefinitely. Customers who hold bookings on any cancelled services for the coming winter season can claim a full refund or can use the money to cover a new booking with us for an alternative destination,” the airline explained in a statement.
The announcement comes during an ongoing ban on flights to Sharm el-Sheikh by the UK government, which was first implemented after the fatal crash of a Russian aircraft over Sinai last year, resulting in the deaths of all 224 people on board. The tragedy was widely suspected to be the result of a bomb planted on the plane at Sharm el-Sheikh airport, where the aircraft departed from.
Commenting on the decision, Civil Aviation Minister Sherif Fathy said, “We expect the return of British journeys to Egypt, but the British government has not yet lifted its decision to warn against travelling to Egypt. Despite this, several British airlines have promised to resume flights to Egypt, particularly to Sharm el-Sheikh,” the privately owned Al-Masry Al-Youm reported on Tuesday.
It had previously been reported that the United Kingdom was considering lifting its travel ban on flights to Sharm el-Sheikh. However, the recent crash of EgyptAir Flight MS804, which took the lives of 66 people, has revived concerns about Egypt’s safety record, with experts waiting on the results of investigations into the crash to conclude whether it was the result of technical issues or a security breach.
There have been a series of incidents that have shaken Egypt’s reputation as a tourist destination in recent years, including the accidental military airstrike on a tourist convoy in the Western Desert, which killed 12 people, including eight Mexican tourists. The murder of Italian student Giulio Regeni, which is widely suspected to be the work of Egypt’s security services, has also caused private travel agents to boycott tourism to the country.
Tourism revenues plummeted by 66 percent for the first quarter of 2016, earning US$500 million in revenue, compared to US$1.5 billion during the same time last year.