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Monday, 3 October 2016

Russian transport minister denies rumors of flights resuming this month

RUSSIA ISN’T ABOUT TO THE LIFT ITS FLIGHT BAN: It seems this morning that Russia is months away from lifting its ban on direct flights to Egypt. Russian Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov denied on Friday rumors that Russia’s flight ban on Egypt would be lifted this month, saying, “These are indeed rumors, although I can say that our Egyptian colleagues have done a lot,” Russian state-owned news agency Sputnik reported, citing an interview with Rossiya-24. Sokolov met with President Abdel Fattah El Sisi in Cairo on Tuesday, where a joint press conference had been expected to be held between Sokolov and Civil Aviation Minister Sherif Fathy to announce an agreement on the restoration of flights. That press conference never happened, reportedly due to time constraints, according to the domestic press at the time.

When can we expect a resumption of flights from Russia? Sokolov also said on Friday that a civil safety agreement between Russia and Egypt may be “finalized by the end of the year, though this will depend on domestic procedures,” state news agency TASS reported.

So, are we making progress on beefing up security at Egypt’s airports? The results are mixed. Anyone who has travelled recently has no doubt been subjected to pat-downs. And in a piece of encouraging news, Egypt is about to issue a tender for retinal scans for use by Cairo Airport employees, the Associated Press reports, part of Russia’s demands on improving airport security, citing Egyptian aviation officials on Sunday. (No word on Sharm or Hurghada.) That would be encouraging, if not for news in the same AP report that police and customs officials were seen shoving each other in Cairo Airport, an incident noticed by passengers, over customs officials not wanting to be frisked by police. “The Cabinet member in charge of customs, Finance Minister Amr el-Garhy, visited the airport on Thursday in a bid to resolve the crisis, making a point of submitting to a police search himself,” the AP’s Hamza Hendawi writes. Customs officials are now returning the favor, insisting on searching police who leave the airport, which is reportedly fueling tension.

Great. Anything else, bearer of bad news? The two accidental heroes who defused a bomb in Manhattan left by terrorist Ahmed Khan Rahami have been identified as Hassan Ali and Abou Bakr Radwan, according to unnamed EgyptAir officials speaking to the New York Times — and they’re not EgyptAir pilots, but rather in-flight security officers, Egypt’s rough equivalent to America’s air marshals. While their antics in accidentally defusing the bomb and preventing potential loss of life are being generally well-received (we ourselves are inexplicably, vaguely and unreasonably proud of them), it does raise some questions as to why in-flight officers were unable to identify a bomb that they held in their hands. For reference, this is what the undetonated bomb looks like for our own readers to judge — a pressure cooker with wires sticking out of it.

EgyptAir issued a statement late last night with regard to the alleged involvement of two of its employees in the accidental defusing of the bomb in Manhattan, making the following points: First, that American authorities have not made any attempt to contact EgyptAir employees for questioning regarding the incident; that all employees, particularly higher-level staff, undergo security checks; that the EgyptAir CEO denies any employees were called in for questioning by the authorities upon their arrival to Egypt; that if the entire story turns out to be true, it is an isolated incident; but of course the entire incident is not true because this is all part of a conspiracy to discredit EgyptAir and destroy its reputation.

Ending on a positive note: EgyptAir is set to resume direct flights between Luxor and London today, after a year-long suspension, CEO and Chairman of EgyptAir Holding Safwat Mossallam said, Al Mal reported.

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