Yesterday British Airways made the announcement that its flights to Cairo were being canceled for seven days. According to CNN, this was done by the airline “as a precaution to allow for further assessment”. On the same day, German carrier Lufthansa also said it was suspending flights to Cairo. However, later on, it said flights would resume on Sunday.
Terrorism against aviation
The announcement came at the same time that the UK Foreign Office was warning its citizens that those traveling to Egypt could face a “heightened risk of terrorism against aviation”.
“There’s a heightened risk of terrorism against aviation. Additional security measures are in place for flights departing from Egypt to the UK. You should co-operate fully with security officials at airports.”
This comes at a time when the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration already has a NOTAM (Notice to Airmen) warning against flying in the region. The NOTAM is specifically for U.S. air carriers and commercial operators and mentions the following:
“Exercise extreme caution during flight operations due to the risk from potential extremist/militant attacks involving anti-aircraft weapons, including man-portable air defense systems (MANPADs), anti-tank missles, small-arms fire, and indirect fire from mortars and rockets targeting aircraft and Sinai airports.”
According to The Independent/Reuters, three Egyptian airport security sources report that British staff were checking security at Cairo’s airport on Wednesday as well as Thursday.
British Airways and Lufthansa
According to the CNN report, British Airways says that the safety and security of its customers and crew were its priority:
“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 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.“
A Lufthansa spokesperson would not comment on any information the airline has that prompted it to cancel Saturday’s flights. However, this was a common response to inquiries about the situation on Twitter:
Hi there. Currently, we do have the information that due to security issues Lufthansa does temporary suspend the flights to Cairo. Please check updates on the news and our website. Thank you for your good understanding. /Tom
— Lufthansa (@lufthansa) July 20, 2019
Abnormal aircraft choice for BA
Most often, British Airways employs a Boeing 787 Dreamliner on its daily London Heathrow to Cairo service. However, the airline was using an Airbus A321 from July 9th to the 19th. These aircraft are quite different in terms of capacity. Depending on whether or not BA uses a 787-8 or -9, the difference in capacity is between 60 and 95 passengers fewer when flying the A321.
One individual who was on a BA flight to Cairo on the A321 commented at One Mile at a Time saying,
“787 seems to be the plane typically used on the route, actually. I was on a flight to CAI a few days ago and lots of passengers were mad as it was originally a 787 and was subbed fairly late to an A321 NEO. No IFE, no hot meals, no recline (at all)…. was an interesting flight over.”
We reached out to British Airways for comment, specifically with regards to aircraft choice. They got back to us saying that there have been various questionable claims online and wanted to set the record straight:
“We operate a mix of aircraft on our Cairo route. Sometimes it’s a 787-8, or a 777, and sometimes its an A321…we swap aircraft around all the time.”