British Airways and Lufthansa abruptly canceled all flights to Cairo on Saturday for security reasons, a day after the British government warned of a heightened risk of terrorist attacks against planes over Egypt.
British Airways told stunned passengers at their departure gate in London that they could not fly and could not reschedule their flights for one week.
“We constantly review our security arrangements at all our airports around the world,” the airline said, “and have suspended flights to Cairo for seven days as a precaution to allow for further assessment.”
The airlines, two of Europe’s largest, did not give any further details on the security issue. But aviation security has been a central focus for Egypt since October 2015 when Islamic State militants based in Sinai brought down a Russian jetliner. Since then, Egypt has stepped up security at major airports.
“As safety is the number one priority of Lufthansa, the airline temporarily suspended its flights to Cairo on 20.07.2019 as a precaution,” the German airline said. “Normal operations will resume tomorrow and all flights are scheduled to operate.”
The British government released updated travel advice for Egypt on Friday, warning against nonessential trips to most of the Sinai Peninsula and the area west of the Nile Valley and saying that travelers to Cairo should be cautious, too.
“There’s a heightened risk of terrorism against aviation,” the government said.
A U.S. State Department travel warning on Friday also described “risks to civil aviation operating within or in the vicinity of Egypt,” as well as “threats from terrorist and violent political opposition groups.”
Youssef Chouhoud, a political scientist at Christopher Newport University in Virginia, said on Twitter that his flight to Cairo from London’s Heathrow Airport had been canceled. “What does @British_Airways know about the security situation in Cairo that we don’t??” he said.
Reuters, citing Egyptian airport security officials, reported that British workers had examined security at Cairo’s main airport on Wednesday and Thursday.
Egypt’s Civil Aviation Ministry said Saturday that it would increase the capacity of EgyptAir flights to London and schedule an additional flight to Heathrow Airport. The statement did not address the security concerns.