Chaotic Cairo International Airport


In the light of the Egyptian civil unrest and rioting over the last few days, the situation at Cairo International Airport has been described as chaotic, as thousands of stranded people are waiting for (even just information about) flights out of the city.

The civil unrest against the government of President Hosni Mubarak has reached new heights in the wake of the Tunisian situation two weeks ago, and daily riots and demonstrations have quickly become part of the daily routine in the larger cities over the last few days. The military has been deployed and the tension has been growing. Most of the countries have put Egypt on the list of countries where they do not advise travel, and most have even worsened the status – which means many foreign nationals are trying to leave the country nowadays.

EgyptAir – that has been successfully and aggressively building a Star Alliance hub out of Cairo – said after a roughly 14-hour break because of the curfew and its inability to field enough crew,  over 20 hours on Monday, only 26 of about 126 EgyptAir flights operated, and it had cancelled all flights scheduled to depart between 3 p.m. and 8 a.m. local time until further notice – an action assumed to have been taken in response to the government-imposed curfew. The curfew had a knock-on effect to other airlines’ planes as well, due to Egyptair providing check-in staff and facilities for them – whose employees had been unable to get to work due to the curfew and traffic breakdowns across the Egyptian capital.

Egyptair advised international customers “that it is not accepting transit passengers via Cairo until further notice [including] transit passengers to domestic destinations in Egypt.” This is really bad news for those passengers across Europe who have opted to fly a Star Alliance airline to the Far East or the Middle East – at reasonable fares. Unfortunately they are now having to pay the price…

It’s an absolute zoo, what a mess,” said Justine Khanzadian, 23, a graduate student from the American University of Cairo. “I decided to leave because of the protests. The government here is just not stable enough to stay.” The scheduling board listed flight numbers without destinations or times of departure just adding to the confusion and tension. Occasionally, an official emerged and shouted out the destination of a departing flight, triggering a rush of passengers with boarding passes. The process worked smoothly for nationals of countries that had sent planes — such as Denmark, Germany, China, Canada, India, Turkey, Indonesia, Azerbaijan — but others had no such support. The U.S. State Department said Monday it has evacuated more than 1,200 Americans from Egypt aboard government-chartered planes and expects to fly out roughly 1,400 more in the coming days. An additional small number of Americans left Egypt on a Canadian evacuation flight and about 70 left on Sunday aboard a U.S. military plane that was taking home embassy staff.

More than interesting, even Iraq decided it would evacuate its citizens, sending three planes to Egypt — including the prime minister’s plane — to bring home for free those who wish to return. Thousands of Iraqis had once fled to Egypt to escape the violence in their own country.

By curfew time, some people who had apparently failed to get on a flight out of Egypt had boarded buses for the ride back into Cairo, just to start the same “journey” the next day. “In a 22-kilometer (14-mile) route from our suburb to the airport we had to get through 19 checkpoints, including nine manned by civilians,” said a Greek oil worker, already in Athens. “There were lots of people gathering at the airport and it was very difficult to get in.

Portugal sent a C-130 military transport plane to evacuate its citizens. Greece was sending three C-130 military transport planes to Alexandria on Tuesday and Polish airline LOT was flying to Cairo…

Germany and UK has tens of thousands of tourists and long-term residents that they plan to not evacuate in an organized way.

Flights continued to operate normally into other destinations in the country, such as Sharm El Sheikh, or Hurghada.

by balint01

1 Response to “Chaotic Cairo International Airport”



  1. 1 Is it Safe to Fly to Egypt Trackback on February 1, 2011 at 1:40 pm

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