British Airways and Lufthansa have cancelled all flights between Heathrow, Frankfurt and Munich and Cairo, citing unspecified ‘security concerns’, but what is actually happening and what are your rights as a passenger if you were due to fly to Cairo?
British Airways announced without warning on Saturday 20th July 2019 that they were suddenly suspending all flights to Cairo as a security precaution. Soon afterwards, Lufthansa followed suit, suspending all flights between Frankfurt and Munich and the Egyptian Capital.
Update: As of Sunday 21st July Lufthansa has resumed flights to Cairo. British Airways is still keeping the suspension for a week as a precautionary measure.
As of Friday 26th July British Airways has resumed flights to Cairo after an internal review.
How Long Is The Suspension For?
The situation is fluid and will change on a day to day basis as assessments are made, but as of the time of writing the suspension was only for an initial 7 day period whilst investigations are ongoing.
Specific reasons will never be given for obvious operational reasons but the UK foreign office have for a long time stated that there is a risk of terrorism against aviation and in occassion in very specific parts (usually at the border regions of Sinai and away from most populated and touristy areas) in Egypt and because of this, the highly unusual circumstances surrounding the sudden cancellations and the specific timeframe, it is reasonable to surmise that very specific intelligence has been made available to the airlines and a specific threat is being investigated and assessed.
This does appear to be a specific threat or concern against British Airways on this very specific route, and should not be used to judge the safety situation in Egypt as a whole.
Whilst this happens flights are suspended but will most likely be resumed after the stated 7 day period.
Update: There have also been unconfirmed reports that this security risk was a result of an internal British Airways security audit and had no input from any intelligence services or governments.
What Is Happening?
The UK foreign office is often highly sensitive to any situation in Egypt and has maintained a general but non specific cautionary stance with tourists for many years.
In 2015 a Russian passenger jet crashed after take off from Sharm El Sheikh airport in Sinai after a suspected terrorist attack. Ever since then the UK foreign office and other governments imposed an all out ban on any airline flying to or from the airport and has not lifted it since despite repeated calls from the Egyptian authorities that it is too heavy handed and has had a devastating effect on Egyptian tourism.
Despite the warning of all but essential travel to Sharm El Shiekh in Sinai, there have been no similar warnings against any other airport in Egypt or Sinai.
What About Other Airports And Airlines?
The situation may change rapidly but at the time of writing all other airlines including Thomas Cook and Easyjet, are still flying to Egypt from the UK. This may change as the situation is reviewed. Egyptair are currently still flying between the UK and Cairo on a daily basis.
What Are Your Rights If Your Flights Are Cancelled?
If you were booked to fly with British Airways to Cairo and are affected by these cancellations, the Foreign Commonwealth Office is advising all passengers to contact the airline on 0844 493 0787 for updates.
At the moment if you are affected by these cancellations then you do have rights under EU law. British Airways themselves are offering a choice between a full refund, postponing a journey until a later date or being booked on another flight, which at the time of writing may have to be on Egyptair.
The same rules should apply if other airlines decide to join British Airways and Lufthansa in cancelling flights to Cairo.
If however you are booked to fly to any other part of Egypt, you cannot simply decide you don’t want to go to Egypt any more (and nor should you if this is a specific threat against two airlines only in Cairo).
If you simply decide to cancel your trip to Hurghada for example, and this is as true for packages as it is to flights alone then this is deemed ‘disinclination to travel’, and that means travel insurance firms have no legal obligation to pay out and airlines have no obligation to refund you.
What Is Different About This Security Situation?
In very general terms the warnings from the Foreign office do not advise against travel to Egypt, only the resorts of Sharm El Shiekh, and give the cover all advice of caution and vigilance. They state that terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Egypt, but then qualify that with the statement that most visits are trouble free.
You can essentially apply that advice to anywhere in the world, including the UK, and can only ever be seen as precautionary advice designed to cover themselves more than anything else.
This situation however is different as it seems to be a response to a very specific threat or situation, one that is advisable to stay away from until the threat is contained and normal travel can resume.
It is essentially the difference between saying ‘that alley is dark, it may be a bad idea to go down there’ and ‘that man has a gun, is pointing it at you and will shoot if you don’t move’. One is worth factoring into general safety precautions and then not being afraid of, the other is a specific threat that should be listened to.
You cannot however equate one with the other.
The Real Risk Of Terrorism.
Egypt has been the victim of terror attacks in the past and the UK government, as well as other authorities including the US State Department does warn against a high threat of terrorism in specific parts of the country. Unfortunately this is often construed to mean the entire country as a whole. Cairo is in fact under the general label of safe, but check advice before visiting. The fact of the matter is however that terrorism can happen anywhere, anytime, and it often does. That is the whole point of it.
Terror attacks have occurred all over the world, including the UK, and the warnings against it are always constant.
There have been almost as many attacks in many western countries in recent years, including the UK and Germany for example, yet tourists aren’t told to stay away from these destinations. There is definitely a high double standard at work here.
Any terror attack is abhorrent, there is no denying that and I do not want to downplay any incident, but they are not and should never be a reason for you to not travel anywhere, and that includes Egypt.
Egyptian security is very visible and very good, and if you take sensible precautions against travelling with the risk of terrorism yourself there is no reason at all to fear a potential terror attack.
The fact is unless there is specific intelligence warning of a specific attack, any general warnings are unwarranted. There is no reason to believe that another terror attack will happen in Egypt as opposed to anywhere else in the world, and there is no point in living your life afraid of what may or may not happen.
Terrorists want you to be afraid. Don’t let them win.
Is Egypt Safe?
Yes, it really is. Specific warnings of potential incidents aside, which can and do happen in every country every day, the general situation in Egypt is safe and trouble free.
The truth is Egypt is an amazing country to visit. It is truly remarkable, unique, welcoming, frustrating, easy and challenging, all at the same time! But one thing it isn’t is dangerous, and I urge any traveller and backpacker who hasn’t been, or anyone at all who has dreamed of visiting Egypt but have been put off by it’s reputation and the general media scaremongering, to just go!
This security situation at the moment is just temporary and there is no reason to believe that flights to Cairo will not resume soon. So forget what you think you know about Egypt and go and see for yourself.
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Other flights are coming into and out of Cairo now, no problems here at all that I see.
No, it does seem (as an educated guess) that it is a very specific threat against British Airways, not other airlines. Even Lufthansa have resumed flights again now.
Egypt is totally safe. Why are they making security claims?
Yes it is, as I said in the article this does seem to be a suspected threat against one very specific airline and that is what they seem to be investigating/acting on, but unfortunately with the way the media and the sheep mentality works this will affect the whole of Egypts reputation in a negative way yet again. That is why I am trying to say there is a very big difference between a single threat and the safety level of an entire country.
I was actually at Heathrow yesterday afternoon when this happened and I am gutted beyond measure. Nothing was said to us at the gates at all, I was even fully checked in and just waiting to board but then the cancellation notice came up and the few staff that were there had no idea what was going on. No advice or help given at all. Now I have lost out not just on my trip but the hotels and everything else I had booked. I won’t be able to do this again now and that is my trip basically ruined. I understand that they have to try and keep us safe but why can’t they at least help us and give us information on the ground and arrange flights to a closer airport and get us there by other means. It can’t be right that they can leave you up the proverbial so badly.
Oh Julie I am sorry to hear that, it must be awful for you. I agree completely that they have to put security first but that still doesn’t take away from the fact your trip has been potentially ruined and they – as per usual – are offering no help, guidance or assistance on the ground beyond the bare minimum they can get away with. You do have rights though and it is important that you know them and demand them, there is a link in the article that explains everything for you. I hope you manage to salvage at least some of your trip.
Somebody somewhere got some Intel that they don’t want to share with the general public.
Well that is generally how security and intelligence services work to be fair ;D
BA must have had a credible threat they don’t do this lightly. Not when it affects profits.
Yes and no, they don’t take these decisions lightly I agree but we really don’t know if there is a credible threat or not yet. At the moment it seems to be just a BA decision.
Security comes first! Obviously there is a threat!
Security definitely does come first Allie I agree, but we really don’t know what is happening yet.
Not just BA, other airlines too, something big kicking off, watch this space.
Well not really, Lufthansa was the only other airline to suspend flights, and that lasted less than 24 hours. This is literally just BA.
Not a good sign – stay safe travelers
I wouldn’t say that, I would class this more as an operational procedure than a safety issue. Egypt in general is very safe, and even if a specific threat has been detected it still doesn’t change that basic fact.
Unfortunately the World is just not safe nowadays. I wouldn’t be surprised if this situation escalates quickly and probably expands to other countries in the region too
I completely disagree with you on both points there Brian. The world IS very safe. Bad things just happen in it sometimes.
So is everything back to normal now?
Effectively yes Leanne. BA are resuming flights on Friday and there are no further cancellations
So if I decide to go to Egypt any way with another airline will my insurance still be valid?
Yes it will Viv, there isn’t a country wide government warning in place so your insurance will be fine.
BA suspends flights but other airlines continue to fly?? Do all airlines get the same security briefings?
Yes and no Dan, there can be threats against entire areas, against specific destinations or facilities (ie airports) or even against one specific airline, so it can all depend.
BA causing a massive storm in a teacup it seems.
A good reminder to not just believe blindly what the media tells you.