File Photo: Russian tourists wearing t-shirts bearing a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin, queue inside the airport in Egypt's Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh on November 6, 2015 (Photo: AFP)
Flights between Russia and Egypt could be resumed not earlier than late February, Russian news agency TASS reported on Monday, citing a source in Cairo close to the ongoing inspection checks on Egyptian airports.
The source said that biometric equipment — one of the Russian experts demands to enhance Egyptian airport security, which Cairo had purchased — was not yet functioning at Cairo International Airport.
"The biometric equipment they bought for scanning fingerprints and retinas is not functioning yet. The equipment is still being installed. In Hurghada and Sharm el-Sheikh the equipment is running, but only in the test mode. After all the systems are launched another delegation of experts from Russia is set to arrive for a final check of the second terminal at the capital's airport," the source said.
Egypt has been implementing tighter security measures at its airports since a Russian passenger flight crashed shortly after taking off from Sharm El-Sheikh International Airport in October 2015.
The Islamic State militant group claimed responsibility for downing the plane, which killed all 224 people on board. Egyptian investigations into the cause of the crash are still ongoing.
Earlier this month, the head of the Egyptian Holding Company for Airports and Air Navigation Mohamed Saeed said that Cairo International Airport was set to receive biometric equipment from Germany on 12 January for immediate installation to better track airport staff.
Similar equipment has already been installed at the Sharm El-Sheikh and Hurghada international airports.
According to the TASS source, an aviation security agreement between Moscow and Cairo would only be signed after the completion of all these procedures.
"And only after [the completion of those procedures] will we talk about the timing of flight resumption. In the best case, we can expect it by the end of February, and most likely in March," the TASS source said.
Last week, a team of Russian experts arrived Egypt for a security inspection of the Red Sea’s Sharm El-Sheikh and Hurghada airports.
According to TASS, Russia’s Transport Ministry is currently preparing a report to be delivered to the Russian government on Cairo International Airport’s security procedures.
After the report is delivered, the ministry is expected to begin a gradual resumption of flights, following more than one year of flight suspension between the two countries after the crash of the Russian airliner.
A number of European countries that suspended flights to Sharm El-Sheikh following the 2015 crash have recently reinstated direct flights to the South Sinai tourist hotspot.
On Tuesday, Germany lifted the last set of restrictions on direct flights from Germany to the city.
Russia, which led European countries in sending tourists to Egypt prior to the crash, has conducted inspections of Egyptian airport security measures several times.
Russian President Vladimir Putin promised Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi in late December that flights from Russia to the country would resume soon.