Irish airlines told not to fly over Sinai in Egypt

UK authorities take similar steps amid fears bomb brought down Russian jet last week

The Irish Aviation Authority has directed Irish airlines not to fly to Sharm el-Sheikh or enter Egyptian airspace over Sinai where a Russian plane was brought down last week.

It follows a similar decision by the British government to suspended flights from the UK to Sharm el-Sheikh amid fears that the plane was brought down by a bomb.

The Irish Aviation Authority issued its direction not to fly to the area on Wednesday night.

In a statement, it said: “The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) directs Irish airline operators not to operate to/from Sharm el-Sheikh Airport, Egypt or in the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula airspace until further notice.”


It said an update would issue when further information became available.

‘Precautionary move’

Britain said the “precautionary” move was to allow time for a specialist team to assess security arrangements in the Egyptian resort.

A Downing Street spokeswoman said “while the investigation is still ongoing we cannot say categorically why the Russian jet crashed.

“But as more information has come to light we have become concerned that the plane may well have been brought down by an explosive device,” she said.

“In light of this, and as a precautionary measure, we have decided that flights due to leave Sharm for the UK this evening will be delayed.”

She said the measures would allow time for UK aviation experts, currently travelling to Sharm, “to make an assessment of the security arrangements in place at the airport and to identify whether any further action is required”.

She expected the assessment to be completed on Wednesday night.

Islamic State’s Egyptian affiliate on Wednesday insisted it had downed the passenger jet over the Sinai Peninsula, killing more than 200 passengers aboard, and said it would tell the world how it did so in its own time.

Egypt’s criticism

The UK’s move to suspend flights from Sharm el-Sheikh and carry out safety checks at the resort’s airport has been criticised by Egypt on Wednesday night.

Egyptian foreign minister Sameh Shoukry told the BBC that was “a premature and unwarranted” development which risked devastating consequences for the country’s vital tourism industry.

The “precautionary” measure was revealed by Number 10 as Egyptian president Abdel Fatah al-Sisi arrived in the UK for a scheduled visit, due to include talks with David Cameron tomorrow.

The prime minister - who spoke with Mr al-Sisi about the crash by telephone on Tuesday night - gathered senior ministers and security officials for a meeting of the Government’s emergency Cobra committee to discuss the latest developments.

All those on board - mostly Russian tourists - were killed when the Metrojet flight bound for St Petersburg from Sharm came down in the Sinai desert on Saturday.

Speculation fuelled

The nature of the crash and the lack of an SOS call have fuelled speculation that it was caused by a bomb or missile, although Cairo has sought to dismiss claims that the crash was the work of Islamist terrorists such as the self-styled Islamic State.

Number 10 said halting the flights would allow UK experts “to make an assessment of the security arrangements in place at the airport and to identify whether any further action is required”.

The work is expected to be concluded on Wednesday night.

Extra consular staff have been deployed to the airport but there has as yet been no change in official travel advice - which excludes Sharm and other Red Sea resorts from a caution against “all but essential” visits to other nearby parts of Egypt.

Thomson said it had temporarily suspended flights to and from the Egyptian resort and British Airways said it was “liaising closely with the government and awaiting further information”.

Budget airline easyJet said it had postponed two UK-bound flights to Thursday following the advice from Downing Street.

Around 330 easyJet passengers are affected altogether, and are being put up in hotels locally.