The Egyptian government believes it has complied with every security improvements demanded following the 2015 terrorist bombing of a Russian charter flight after take off from Sharm el-Sheik airport.
Yet 18 months on from the incident in which all passengers were killed and as other European tourists have returned to the Red Sea resort, the UK has refused to reverse its suspension of flights to the airport.
Anonymous Egyptian officials who spoke to the BBC say the country feels badly let down by its ally and partner Britain.
The Department for Transport said: “The security of British nationals is our top priority, and we took the decision to suspend flights from Sharm el-Sheikh in November 2015 following the Metrojet crash to protect the travelling public.
“We continue to work closely with the Egyptian authorities on security arrangements at the airport. We keep aviation security under constant review and will resume flights as soon as we can.”
The problem is that despite an exhaustive, months-long investigation, Egypt has not so far been able to find and arrest the perpetrators of the bombing.
A team of British aviation security experts have spent time assessing all of Egypt’s major airports.
Cairo, Marsa Alam, Hurghada, Luxor, Aswan and Sharm el-Sheikh have all now been inspected at length, with a semi-permanent presence of UK aviation experts.
Egypt says biometric screening for all airport staff has been introduced at some of these airports, with sensitive explosive detection equipment even having to be imported by the military in order to circumvent lengthy bureaucratic customs delays.
Local officials say security at Sharm el-Shiekh airport is now being run by a private company, separate from the airport authority, after receiving extensive training from British experts.
“We have implemented all the recommendations made for improvements at Sharm and received regular and positive reports back from the UK,” an Egyptian official who asked not to be named told the BBC.
He added: “This means that Sharm el-Sheikh is comparable to the safest airports in the world, and yet it seems to have had no effect on the UK flight ban.”
Foreign and Commonwealth Office says that it advises against air travel to Sharm as a precautionary measure. Thomson, Thomas Cook, Monarch and all the other UK operators have followed the FCO advisory.
Although this is not strictly a government order to comply, insurance is a major factor and none has chosen to flout the advice.
Both Egyptian and UK operators want to see British tourists return to Sharm el-Sheikh but no decision will be taken before the June 8 UK general election. Around 700,000 UK holidaymakers travelled to Sharm el-Sheikh every year prior to the flight ban.
Thomson flights to the destination remain suspended until at last September 30 due to the FCO travel advice although the operator says the situation in Egypt is under constant review.
Thomas Cook has flights available from November ‘in case the FCO determines that the risk of flying to the airport has reduced”.
But the operator added: “Without that change, we will cancel all planned flights and holidays from the UK to Sharm el-Sheikh and offer free amendments to a different destination, or a full refund.”
Monarch cancelled its winter 2016-17 and summer 2017 flights to Sharm el-Sheikh last November with chief executive Andrew Swaffield saying at the time:
“Much hard work has been done by the UK and Egyptian Governments, along with the travel industry, to improve safety measures at Sharm el-Sheikh airport and it is very disappointing that it remains closed.
“If and when the airport does reopen then we will assess whether we start flights and holidays again.”
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