Germany resumes direct flights to Sharm El-Sheikh: Ministry

Ayat Al Tawy , Wednesday 11 May 2016

Germany's transport ministry decided to overturn a ban on joint transportation of passengers and luggage from Sharm El-Sheikh to Germany

Tourists swim in the sea in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, November 7, 2015 (Reuters)

Germany has decided to "immediately" ease restrictions on air flights between its airports and the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh, the Egyptian foreign ministry and German embassy confirmed.

The move will see the resumption of direct air trips between the popular beach town and the European country, according to both sides.

A number of European airlines and governments introduced restrictions on flights to Sharm El-Sheikh over security concerns after a Russian passenger jet crashed in Sinai in October 2015, killing 224 people, most of whom were holidaymakers. 

German airlines were among many foreign carriers who banned check-in luggage on flights from the city's airport, and direct flights from German airports subsequently stopped.

But the ban, in place since November 2015, has been overturned.

"Based on appropriate security measures on the part of the Egyptian safety and security aviation authorities, luggage will be immediately re-allowed to be carried when travelling from Sharm El-Sheikh airport to Germany," read a Wednesday statement by the German embassy in Cairo sent to Ahram Online by email.

The embassy said that special security technology will be implemented and trained personnel will be assigned for baggage handling at the passenger terminal at Sharm El-Sheikh airport in a bid to "minimise to the lowest possible level security risks of baggage delivery and transfer."

The Egyptian foreign ministry said Wednesday the decision to lift the ban on joint transportation of check-in luggage was issued by the German transport ministry.

Germany's aviation authority has officially notified all tour operators of the ban removal which will see flights resume normally to the Red Sea resort, the ministry added in a statement.

The foreign ministry said talks between the governments of two countries to alleviate the constraints lasted for six months.

Egypt’s ambassador in Berlin Badr Abdel Atty said the decision came following a recommendation by German air travel inspectors who conducted security examination at airports in Sharm El-Sheikh and other Red Sea towns in March.

He said the decision mirrors Egypt's "compliance to international airport security standards."

He added that the move also "highlights that Germany is keen to push forward cooperation on airport security and open the door to the recovery of the tourism sector in Sharm El-Sheikh and Egyptian tourism generally."

Around 170,000 German tourists visited Egypt in the first quarter of 2016, mainly frequenting the popular Red Sea beach resorts of Sharm and Hurghada. 

Egyptian tourism, a pillar of the economy and a key source of hard currency, has taken a blow since the plane crash, with Sharm El-Sheikh believed to be suffering the most.

The Egyptian affiliate of the Islamic State militant group claimed responsibility for the October crash, saying it had smuggled a bomb on board.

Following the crash, the British government halted direct flights between Sharm El-Sheikh Airport, from which the passenger jet had departed, and British airports. It has since deployed expert teams to assess security practices at Egyptian airports, but flights to South Sinai have yet to be resumed.

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