Germany lifts last restriction on direct flights to Sharm El-Sheikh: Egypt's foreign ministry

Ahram Online , Tuesday 24 Jan 2017

Sharm El-Sheikh
File Photo: People enjoy the beach at the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh in the South Sinai governorate (Photo: Reuters)

Egypt’s foreign ministry announced on Tuesday it has successfully convinced Berlin to lift restrictions on flights from Germany to Sharm El-Sheikh resort; a decision that would push more flights to South Sinai's largest city.

According to an official statement by the ministry, the German transportation ministry removed a restriction on German airlines—imposed in the wake of a Russian plane crash over the Sinai desert in October 2015—that required them to fly at a minimum altitude of 26,000 feet above South Sinai.

The decision means that all air companies would be able to fly directly to Sharm El-Sheikh and St. Catherine international airports, without paying “additional insurance fees.”

The ministry pointed out that around 125 flights arrived from Germany in 2016 to different tourist areas in Egypt, especially Red Sea resorts. 

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 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 following the crash. Berlin subsequently halted direct flights from German airports to the city.

The flight ban was lifted in May 2016, and in November 2016, Sharm El-Sheikh’s airport received the a German air flight carrying 144 tourists, putting an end to the one-year travel ban.

Egypt's foreign ministry said the “positive German decision” came after extensive efforts by Egypt’s foreign minister Sameh Shoukry and the Egyptian envoy in Berlin to support German tourism in Egypt.

According to the ministry, Germans accounted for the greatest number of tourists to visit Egypt in 2016, with 655,000 people.

The ministry said that lifting restrictions on the flights from Germany to South Sinai was top on the list of issues FM Shoukry discussed during his visit to Berlin last week.

On 11 January, Shoukry flew to Germany for a two-day visit, in which he met with his German counterpart, as well as transportation and interior ministers to discuss lifting the restrictions.

The ministry said Berlin's decision would make it easier for travellers to secure flights, allowing the resumption of normal traffic to Sharm El-Sheikh and other South Sinai resorts.

Egyptian tourism, a pillar of the country's economy and a key source of hard currency, has taken a blow since the passenger plane crash. Sharm El-Sheikh's economy is believed to have suffered the most.

Egypt’s revenues from tourism dropped from $6.1 billion in 2015 to $3.4 billion in 2016, according to statements by Central Bank of Egypt Governor Tarek Amer on Monday.

The number of tourists visiting the country dropped by 50 percent in the first half of 2016 compared to the previous year, according to Egypt's Tourism Authority.

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