By Friday Nwosu
These are certainly not the best of times for one of Africa’s largest carriers-EgyptAir, as Egypt’s national carrier continues to struggle with the challenge of terrorism which has been trailing its operations. The Star Alliance member has been finding it difficult to shake off terrorist groups of its tail.
Egypt Air known for its frequent hijack cases is yet again on the world news, with the disappearance of one of its planes on Thursday 19th 2016.
Egypt Air, is no stranger to hijack cases, the airline has been a target of extremist groups in the continent. In the deadliest, the national flag carrier saw one of its jets, a Boeing 737, seized in November 1985 by gunmen said to have links to the Abu Nidal extremist group.
They diverted the plane shortly after takeoff from Athens, landing in Malta, where a raid by Egyptian commandos resulted in the deaths of 50 passengers and six hijackers.
To date, according to the Aviation Safety Network’s safety database, the airline has been the victim of no fewer than eight hijackings, including an incident in March 2016, in which an “unstable” man held passengers and crew of an Egypt Air A320-232 hostage with a fake explosive belt, forcing the plane to divert to Cyprus — apparently over issues involving his ex-wife, a Cypriot.
The others were mostly perpetrated by individuals or small groups acting independently.
In 1999, an EgyptAir pilot flying a Los Angeles to Cairo route crashed the plane deliberately into the Atlantic Ocean, killing all 217 people on board.
Flight MS804 Crash
According the agency report, the airline’s EgyptAir flight MS804 travelling from Paris to Cairo had plunged into the Mediterranean Sea with 56 passengers and 10 crew members on board.
French President Francois Hollande said in a televised address that the plane had crashed early hours of Thursday morning.
The plane made “sudden swerves” mid-air and plunged before dropping off radars in the southern Mediterranean, Greece’s defence minister said.
“At 3:39a.m. the course of the aircraft was south and south-east of Kassos and Karpathos islands … immediately after it entered Cairo FIR and made swerves “ Defence Minister, Panos said.
Egypt’s Aviation Minister, Sherif Fathy said terrorism was more likely than technical failure to be the cause of the crash.
“The possibility of having a terror attack is higher than the possibility of having a technical problem” he told reporters.
“Family members of passengers and crew have been already informed and we extend our deepest sympathies to those affected,” EgyptAir said in a statement.
The Airbus A320 passenger jet was flying at 37,000ft when it disappeared on Thursday 16km after entering Egyptian air space, EgyptAir said.
The airline has released toll-free numbers for relatives of the passengers who were on-board: 0800 7777 0000 from any landline in Egypt and +20 2259 89320 for international callers.
The plane, on its fifth journey of the day, was travelling at 37,000 feet when it disappeared from radar. It had made a stop in Tunisia before flying to Paris.
EgyptAir says the captain has 6,275 flying hours, including 2,101 on the A320; the copilot has 2,766. The plane was manufactured in 2003.
Impact on Tourism
Recently, Egypt signed a $68 million contract with New York advertising agency J. Walter Thompson Co. to help revive the Arab nation’s tourism industry for the next three years. The company will run a public relations campaign in 27 markets around the world to promote Egypt as a prime tourist destination and improve the view of the country’s security situation.
The Egyptian Ministry of Tourism, which announced the three-year agreement in local news, has been handling promotion for the country since the outbreak of the revolution in January 2009, which dealt a blow to Egyptian tourism. The terror attack in Sousse, Tunisia, has also negatively impacted Egypt’s tourism industry. Egypt has historically been one of the most stable countries in the Middle East and the Arab nation boasts the Pyramids of Giza, ancient temples, museums and other tourist attractions. But an increase in terrorist attacks associated with the Arab world in recent years has affected Egypt’s image.
Since the crisis of the Russian plane crash at the end of October 2015, Egyptian tourism has been suffering from a decline in inbound tourism. This led revenues to decline to $6.1bn, compared to $7.3bn the previous year.
But the country could attract one million tourists if travel and visa restrictions were lifted for Arabs from the North African countries of Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco, chairperson of the Egyptian Travel Agencies Association Khaled El-Manawi said.
New data from the International Monetary Fund shows that Egypt is now Africa’s largest economy after Nigeria, pushing South Africa into third place. Looking ahead, the IMF WEO has not ventured any guesses as to the trajectory of Egypt’s GDP in US dollar terms from 2016 onwards. While the country’s local currency GDP is forecast by the multilateral organisation, there is significant uncertainty as to the short- and medium-term trajectory for the Egyptian pound. As a result, converting local currency GDP projections for Egypt to US dollar equivalents is rather challenging.
Since the Arab spring Egypt has been bedeviled with frequent social unrest. The country is still trying to stabilize since the unfortunate incident that rocked it in 2011 and the subsequent social trailing it.