Russian President Vladmir Putin has annulled the nation’s ban on charter flights to Egypt after six years, a policy that was implemented following a fatal aircraft bombing that killed all on board.
President Putin declared the decree on Thursday, in order to bolster the countries’ tourism sector again, and reintroduce the nations’ bilateral agreement.
It comes six years after a Metrojet flight was targeted in a bomb attack that killed all 224 passengers onboard – mostly Russian tourists. The attack was deemed to have been completed by Islamic State terrorist groups.
Metrojet flight 9268 crashed minutes after taking off from the Egyptian resort, Sharm El-Sheikh, which was supposed to land in St. Petersburg on 31 October 2015. The Airbus A321 was struck by a bomb and downed over the Sinai Peninsula.
“Egypt welcomes the decision made by the Russian Federation to lift the ban on charter flights to and from Egypt after the Russian President’s decree,” the Foreign Ministry of Egypt said in a statement in response to the announcement.
“We expect Russian tourists to return to Egyptian resorts as soon as possible, which will allow strengthening the bilateral co-operation in the sector considering the preventive measures taken by the Egyptian government to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.”
Despite the decision to ban flights to Egypt from Russia, Egypt has continued to deny the bombing was the result of a terrorist attack.
In 2018, Russia resumed flights solely to Egypt’s Cairo International Airport after the country implemented tighter security measures, however, the move this week marks the beginning of recovery between the two countries.
“We are confident that the step reflects the firmness of the Egyptian-Russian relations at all levels, which are rapidly developing in various fields,” said the Egyptian ministry.
The move has been in discussion since April, when President Putin and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi discussed the imminent resumption of flights over a phone call, specifically to the coastal cities of Hurghada and Sharm El-Sheikh.
Before the bombing, 3 million Russians travelled to Egypt every year, the country’s largest contributor to its tourism sector. However, the incident severely damaged Egypt, tourism numbers dropping fast in the aftermath.
Now, Egypt expects over 1 million Russian tourists this year, which is timely after the pandemic saw travellers dropping to 3.5 million in 2020 compared with 13.1 million in 2019, according to Reuters.
Vice Minister for Tourism in Egypt Ghada Shalaby told Reuters the country expects to receive 50 per cent of its pre-pandemic numbers, after the tourism industry dropped 70 per cent in 2020.