British government suspends UK flights over Egypt's Sinai in 'precautionary move'

Ahram Online , Wednesday 4 Nov 2015

The plane crashed half an hour after it left Sharm airport on Saturday morning; UAE and other airlines have already taken similar measures

British Airways
British Airways (AP)

The British government decided on Wednesday to halt its flights for Egypt's Sharm El-Sheikh city on Wenesday, pending further assesment of safety procedures at Sharm's airport following the crash of Russian passenger plane in north Sinai Penisula on Saturday.

British government spokesman10 said that London "will allow time for a team of UK aviation experts, currently travelling to Sharm, to make an assessment of the security arrangements in place at the airport and to identify whether any further action is required".

 "We expect this assessment to be completed tonight," the statement read.

The Russain plane, whose passengers were mainly Russian tourists, lost contact with radar less than half an hour after takeoff. It was reportedly flying at an altitude of 30,000 feet. All 224 people on board were killed.

The plane was heading from the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh to Russia's St Petersburg.

Egypt has opened an investigation into the causes of the crash, allowing Russia to take part.

An aviation team from Egyptian and Russian experts retrieved the black boxes of the plane in order to determine the reason behind the crash of the Airbus A-321.

"While the investigation is still ongoing we cannot say categorically why the Russian jet crashed, But as more information has come to light we have become concerned that the plane may well have been brought down by an explosive device," the British government said in a statement.

"In light of this, and as a precautionary measure, we have decided that flights due to leave Sharm for the UK this evening will be delayed" the statement added.

On Saturday, German carrier Lufthansa and Air France-KLM, two of Europe's largest airlines,  have decided to avoid flying over the Sinai Peninsula while they wait for clarity on what caused the crash. On Sunday, the UAE Emirates airlines, Air Arabia and Flydubai said they would be re-routing flights over Sinai to avoid flying over the same site where A-321 went down.

Egyptian president Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, who arrived in London on Wednesday for an official visit, had told the Telegraph on Monday that claims by ISIS it had downed the Russian plane are sheer propaganda.

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