T.A.T - Several large Middle Eastern and European airlines have said they will avoid the area of Egyptian airspace where a Russian plane came down on Saturday.
The biggest Gulf airline, Emirates, and its subsidiary flydubai, as well as Air Arabia, said they were rerouting flights around the peninsula where the Russian Metrojet flight crashed soon after takeoff from Sharm el-Sheikh, killing all 224 people on board.
Lufthansa and Air France-KLM have also decided to stop flying over the peninsula while the risks are assessed after an Islamic militant group claimed to have shot the plane down – a claim that Moscow has so far dismissed.
An easyJet spokesman said its planes were already not flying over the north and central Sinai conflict zone. “As has been the case for some time before yesterday’s incident, easyJet like other UK airlines does not fly over northern and central Sinai, the area of the incident.”
British Airways planes to and from Sharm are understood to be following a similar route along the Gulf of Suez although the airline would not confirm it. A BA spokesman said: “We do not discuss the details of individual routes but we would not fly a route unless it was safe to do. The safety of our customers is always the number one priority.”
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EasyJet said passengers who no longer wanted to fly would be offered either an alternative flight or a voucher. “The safety of our customers and crew is our highest priority,” a spokesman said.
Advice from the Department of Transport from December 2014 tells airlines to avoid flying below 25,000 feet over northern Sinai. That advice was reissued in September this year.
The Metrojet Airbus A321-200 reached 31,000 feet before it crashed and experts have been sceptical that militants in Sinai would have weapons capable of shooting down a plane at such an altitude. Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 was flying at 33,000 feet when it was shot down over eastern Ukraine in July 2014.
The International Air Transport Association called last year for better sharing of information between airlines after the MH17 crash and other threats. Such information is often jealously guarded and has led to airlines taking different decisions over which airspace is deemed safe.