All commercial Russian flights scheduled for Egypt are now suspended, while around 11,000 Russian vacationers were successfully brought home within the last 24 hours.
The large scale evacuation from the resort city of Sharm al Sheikh, comes after US and UK intelligence pointed to a possibility that the Russian plane crash was caused by a bomb on board. Russia initially dismissed the claims, however, later on the Russian authorities joined the UK and various other European countries and started flying their nationals out of Sharm al Sheikh.
The UK has flown 3,500 travelers out of Sharm al Sheikh so far, with thousands more waiting for a flight home.
On October 31, Russia’s Metrojet Flight 9268 passenger aeroplane crashed in the Sinai Peninsula, killing all 224 passengers on board. Theories over the cause of crash vary, however, the possibility of a bomb on board is being discussed.
The UK intelligence reports have not been shared with the Egyptian authorities, however, recently the chief investigator in Cairo looking into the matter, confirmed the plane was flying on auto-pilot and appeared to break up in mid-air after a sudden noise was heard.
Ayman al Muqaddam, head of a team of experts, said the cockpit voice recording would be analysed to identify the nature of the noise, which the UK and the US have indicated may have been a bomb.
Al Muqaddam added that it was too early to say what caused the plane to break up in mid-air.
Tourism in Egypt
One in five foreign tourists in Egypt are Russian, mostly staying in Sharm al Sheikh and Hurghada. Currently there are 80,000 Russian tourists in Egypt.
Egypt's rich history acts as the backbone of the country’s tourism industry, however, the increasing number of cancelled flights is anticipated to hamper the country’s tourist industry, an important flow of income for the already struggling economy.
According to data from the World Travel and Tourism Council, the total contribution of travel & tourism to Egypt’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2014 was 12.8 percent.
DAESH's affiliate in Egypt, Wilayet Sinai (Sinai Province), claimed it brought down the airliner with an air missile. Such theory has been dismissed by all parties, however the possibility of the terrorist group being behind the attack is still not off the table.