As if Egypt’s tourism industry doesn’t have enough to worry about, news has emerged that someone fired a missile which came within about 300 metres of a plane flying from London to the Egyptian resort area of Sharm el-Sheikh as the plane approached the airport.
The Thomson Airways flight carrying 189 passengers went on to land safely after the alarming incident on 23 August 2015. Passengers were not informed of it.
The British government has now confirmed the news, first published in the Daily Mail, but says its investigation into the incident has shown the missile was not actually fired at the plane.
That would be little consolation if the two had connected.
“We investigated the reported incident at the time and concluded that it was not a targeted attack and was likely to be connected to routine exercises being conducted by the Egyptian military in the area at the time,” a British government spokesperson told the Guardian.
The disturbing news comes as thousands of tourists, mainly British and Russian, are stranded in Egypt after the deadly crash 10 days ago of a Russian-operated Airbus A321-200. Strong suspicions that agents of ISIS placed a bomb aboard have led several European countries, including Britain, France, Ireland, the Netherlands and Russia to suspend flights to Egypt.
The doomed flight was operated by Russian tourist airline Metrojet. The crash killed all 224 people aboard: 192 adults, 25 children and seven crew.
Over 3500 British holidaymakers in Egypt are now beginning to return home on special flights, but big delays are causing problems.
Far more Russians are stranded in Egypt – almost 80,000 of them. About 30% of tourism to Egyptian resorts comes from Russia. The Britons and Russians will have to wait for their luggage, which will follow on cargo flights.
It’s a devastating blow to Egypt’s tourism industry, already under much pressure. The Russian Travel Industry Union says nearly all Russian tourists due to visit Egypt in the next week or two have agreed to fly to Turkey instead.
Written by Peter Needham