Russia to resume charter flights to Egypt after years of interruption

The resumption would be key for Egypt’s tourism sector, which has been dealt another blow by the coronavirus pandemic over the past year.
Sunday 06/06/2021
A tourist poses for a picture in front of Sphinx at the Great Pyramids of Giza, Egypt. (REUTERS)
A tourist poses for a picture in front of Sphinx at the Great Pyramids of Giza, Egypt. (REUTERS)

CAIRO--Russian charter flights to Egyptian resorts are expected to resume in the coming days after a years-long hiatus, Interfax news agency cited the boss of Aeroflot as saying on Friday.

“We understand that there is a high degree of readiness for the reopening of two more destinations (to Egypt), Hurghada and Sharm el-Sheikh, but we do not know yet when and how this will happen,” Aeroflot CEO Mikhail Poluboyarinov said.

Flights to resort destinations Sharm al-Sheikh and Hurghada were suspended after a Russian passenger plane crashed in Sinai in October 2015, killing 224 people. 

The Metrojet plane had been taking Russian holiday makers home from Sharm el-Sheikh to St Petersburg in 2015, when it broke up over the Sinai Peninsula, killing all on board. A group affiliated with Islamic State militants claimed responsibility.

The attack was a serious blow to Egypt’s vital tourism industry, which was also affected by the unrest following its 2011 popular uprising. Egyptian authorities have since spent millions of dollars to upgrade security at its airports, hoping to get Moscow to change its mind.

The resumption would be key for Egypt’s tourism sector, which has been dealt another blow by the coronavirus pandemic over the past year. It’s kept looser restrictions in the Red Sea resort towns to try to attract foreign visitors.

Earlier in May, Egypt’s Tourism and Antiquities Minister Khaled El-Enany said the country is optimistic about welcoming more visitors this year with numbers increasing steadily since January to around half a million tourists a month.

Tourism revenue, an important source of foreign currency for Egypt, plunged by 70% in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Tourism usually accounts for up to 15% of the country’s gross domestic product.

Monthly tourism revenues stood at about $500,000, half of what they were before the pandemic. But Egypt hopes for a recovery by the end of the year when it aims to have vaccinated tourism staff in resorts along the Red Sea and name the area a COVID-free destination, Enany said.

Egypt and Russia in April agreed to resume all flights between the two countries in a call between their presidents, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Vladimir Putin, Egypt’s presidency said in a statement.

The Russian market was a very important one to Egypt. Until 2015, Russians were ranking number one, around 3.5 million tourists a year.