Will I Still Fly Out Of Egypt To Score Cheap Airline Tickets?

I’ve written about the cheap premium fares available out of Cairo, Egypt, which I’ve taken advantage of many times, especially on Qatar Airways. I’ve really enjoyed my (brief) time in Cairo as well. On the whole I find Egyptians to be extremely friendly and hospitable, and it’s sad to see what has happened to their tourism industry.

Pyramids-of-Giza
Pyramids of Giza in Egypt

This brings me to a question a reader asked by email a couple of days ago, following the horrible tragedy of EgyptAir 804 this past Thursday morning:

I know you wrote about this yesterday (before the disappearance of MS804), but I’m wondering if now considering the latest developments and the strong indications (albeit still speculation) that terrorism was involved, you might think twice before booking cheap fares ex-Cairo. Or will this still not affect you?

The timing of this is especially interesting, given the two posts I recently wrote. On Wednesday, just hours before MS804 crashed, I wrote about why I don’t choose airlines based on their safety records. Just two days before that I wrote about the return Matthew and I were planning on booking out of Colombo, routing through Cairo to take advantage of cheap business class fares.

When my mom first heard about MS804 I was enroute to Cape Town, and she texted me to say “you’re not flying through Cairo, are you? Please don’t fly through there anymore.” I can’t blame her, because I’m sure most concerned mothers would have a similar reaction.

EgyptAir-737
EgyptAir 737 at Frankfurt Airport the other day

Do I think flying to/from Egypt is safe?

Here are my thoughts about flying into/out of Egypt:

  • Last October a Metrojet Airbus A321 was blown up after taking off from Egypt
  • We don’t know for sure what has caused the crash of EgyptAir 804, but as of now investigators are saying it is “likely” to have been a bomb; it remains to be seen whether the bomb was loaded in Paris or Cairo, and whether this is linked to the other recent attacks in Paris and Brussels
  • Every time I’ve passed through Cairo I’ve been amazed at how lax security is, so in the back of my mind I’m not surprised we’ve now seen two crashes involving Egypt in one way or another
  • At least based on how they’ve acted in the past, I don’t trust the Egyptian government to take the actions necessary to fix things; they still claim that EgyptAir 990 crashed due to a horrible mechanical failure, rather than pilot suicide, as most other aviation authorities concluded

Cairo-Airport-VIP-Lounge-01
Cairo Airport Terminal 1

Will I continue to fly to/from Egypt?

The other day I wrote a post about why I don’t choose airlines based on their safety record, and the premise was basically that I can’t think of any airline I’d fly which has repeated negligence in the sense that the chances of an event repeating on that airline are higher than on another airline.

As passengers we’re at such an information disadvantage when it comes to understanding safety, and I can’t think of an airline I’ve flown which has shown true repeated negligence when it comes to safety in the past 20 or so years. For example, back in the day Korean Air had a terrible safety record, but they’ve gotten much better.

As another example, leading up to my flight on South African Airways, I’ve received several messages from readers saying how they have terrible maintenance, but they also haven’t had a fatal crash in nearly 30 years, so I’m not sure what to make of that.

Flying out of Egypt is a trickier situation, because my perception is genuinely that there’s a lack of proper procedures in place to prevent something like this from happening in the future. The Metrojet crash was the most deadly to ever happen in Egyptian airspace, though I don’t know of any major changes they’ve instituted as a result of it.

Cairo-Airport-VIP-Lounge-44
Boarding a Qatar Airways A330 at Cairo Airport

I guess my conclusion is as follows:

  • Based on what I’ve seen on the passenger side of things, I don’t think Egypt’s screening procedures are as good as in some other countries (this is independent of the EgyptAir incident), and I do think the odds of an incident repeating are higher than elsewhere; at least that’s my perception
  • The perception is certainly out there that Egypt has serious security issues
  • I do think the odds of something happening on a flight to/from Egypt are higher, but ultimately we’re still talking about very, very small odds

Matthew and I actually haven’t ticketed our reservation yet for travel from Colombo to New York via Cairo, and I’m pondering whether we should reconsider it, regardless of whether the risk is there, but rather for the sake of moms.

I’m curious how you guys feel.

Has your willingness to fly to/from Egypt changed as a result of recent events?

Comments

  1. @Ben
    Ultimately flying is still a fairly safe activity; so I wouldn’t take any major precautions besides what I usually do, watching out for suspicious passengers.

  2. I am afraid I just wouldn’t be able to take the risk, a country that has issues with saftey and security just goes on my blacklist.

  3. As I’m reading your post, I’m in a car driving to hurghada from Cairo after I cancelled my Egypt air flight two days ago.

    Security in every Egyptian airport I’ve been to has not been up to par with other countries including less busy ones.

    I can’t see myself flying Egypt air for quite awhile, regardless of the conclusion of the most recent incident.

  4. Why are you presenting the downing of the Egyptair plane as something potentially related to Cairo’s airport? If anything, you should be asking if people won’t flight through Paris anymore, as that was the origin airport. Even if a bomb was planted at a different airport- somewhere the plane had come from-, it wasn’t caught at Paris.

    However, prevailing theories center on the idea it was planted in De Gaulle. It couldn’t have had anything to do with security at CAI. This simply fuels fears and confuses people. You should let your mom know that it was likely due to issues in Paris, not Cairo- as well as your readers.

  5. @ CJL — Well I’m presenting it as something *potentially* related to Cairo Airport because it is *potentially* related to Cairo Airport. We don’t know yet, one way or another. If there was in fact a bomb, and if the bomb was in fact loaded in Cairo, I totally agree that it should have been caught at Paris. But I suspect globally proper “sweeps” aren’t done of planes when they’re connecting somewhere, whether it’s in the cargo hold or cabin.

    My (baseless) speculation is that the combination of Cairo and Paris aren’t a coincidence, and that the bomb was loaded in Cairo and intentionally detonated out of Paris. Time will tell whether that’s the case or not…

  6. No way. Egypt and Egyptian authorities are known for their “way too laid back” attitude when it come to safety and security. Not only in aviation but that almost applies everywhere.

    Add to it that the country is politically unstable and there are many enemies who will want to “make a point” by bombing an Egyptian plane.

  7. Cant vote too.

    However, some thoughts:
    I think the odds of a further “incident/accident” has increased, and while the odds are still “relatively” low, it is probably much much higher than elsewhere.

    i.e. if the odds are 0.0001% elsewhere, the odds have increased (due to the points you have mentioned above) to maybe 0.001%.

    If so, that is a 1000% increase (i.e. 10 times). When viewed in this manner, suddenly the whole situation of this routing gets less attractive. This is a good way to highlight the mathematical odds of disadvantage vs the savings you may have going through this particular route. It is not really a must-do work requirement; it is an icing on the cake kind of bonus (i.e. if you do it, u score a bonus, but it does not hurt you not to do it).

    I am sure your readers will agree that for a risk that perhaps increased by 10-fold, vs the amount of savings, it may not be worth it. (Of course we cannot objectively quantify the risk. But as you have pointed out in your post above, the lax security is inviting things to happen)

    Given the kind of situation at this moment, there will be probably fewer readers willing to fly out from Cairo (for leisure at least) at this point, so the review will not serve sufficient purpose vs the next best alternative.

    Try to re-route and do a route & airlines that your readers may be more likely to fly, if the product is good, and with less safety issues.

    You can be sure we are as concerned about your safety as your mum, as we want to continue to read your postings.

    When the situation there has shown improvement, that would be a better timing for you to review the product as well. Afterall, reviews should be fresh.

  8. @ Chandan @ flyingfish — Sorry, something wrong with WordPress polling at the moment. Removed the poll, and hoping to get it fixed shortly. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

  9. I think it is a false calculation to assume frequency of past event occurances when considering the future risk of flying around places like Ejypt. With destabilization of neighbouring countires like Libya there are more weapons that can bring down a plane in proximal circulation. There is also a growing trend of on the ground attacks on locals and tourists. This may increase with more civil unrest. So the safety record of an airline does not really have much to do with this. It’s more your risk tolerance travelling to increasingly unsettled areas in which civilians are a prized target.

  10. I’ve heard you say that travel for you is more about the journey than the destination. Based on the tone of your blog and your need to put this post out there for discussion, it seems that flying through Cairo on EgyptAir right now would not be an enjoyable experience for. I could see 2 different scenarios.

    1) Security will be ramped up dramatically. Maybe they will impose restrictions not normally in place. Or security lines will be much longer. Whatever, it will detract from the experience.
    2) or, there will not be that much increased security. You will notice the lack of any changes which will increase your stress of something possibly happening even if you know the chances are slim. You will definitely not enjoy your flight being on edge, despite how nice the product or staff might be.

    I agree with @flyingfish that many people will not be making non-necessary trips to the region as is it deemed “unsafe” by the leisure traveler. The need for a review of the product at this time is less important. Traveling there to prove a point how it is still safe or to support the tourism industry isn’t your responsibility.

    Unless you think it is.

  11. I was flying back from Cairo in April. First ok me there and commented on how lax the security was. The person with me forgot to empty her water bottle and still made it through, despite signs saying no liquids.

  12. Perhaps instead of adding to the fear of the unknown, you should keep your “baseless” speculation to yourself until the facts are known? At least at that time you could engage in a meaningful discussion about the true risks.

  13. I agree that it might be difficult to have insight into safety standards of airlines, it is definitely easier with airports, where you got to see their security screening and behavior of staff. I personally would not fly from Cairo, even through statistically it is probably less risky than taking a care ride anywhere in Europe or the US. But the thing is, I can easily avoid flying from Cairo (or any other airport I think I don’t trust) while avoiding taking a car is quite a thing in some areas.

  14. I personally think that the reviews you have planned are still very valuable to travelers, since neither Kuwait or royal Jordanian have their hub in Cairo and passengers are unlikely to use those airlines from Cairo; it’s just a stop you have chosen to test both and to have the cheapest fare.

    For what concerns odds I agree that the odds of something happening in Cairo are higher than in other airports, let’s say 0.001% (vs 0.0001 at other airports) but to have two accidents in a small period of time have incredibly low odds: 0.001% x 0.001% is 0.000001%.

    Although I still think the reviews you are planning are incredibly interesting (especially sine royal Jordanian is part of one world) I do understand if you decide not to fly through there anymore

  15. Security is a whole other thing after MS804. Stricter than TSA! Regardless, security for US-bound flights worldwide is different than other international flights.

  16. I’m afraid if this was a bomb it says more about security in Paris than Cairo. I can think of no operational reason any luggage or cargo inbond to Paris on that aircraft should still have been onboard when it departed Paris to return to Cairo.

  17. Consider your mom. You have no compelling reason to fly out of Cairo right now. You have many compelling reasons to honor the deep and abiding love she feels for you. Skip Cairo right now and she will sleep better.

  18. I’m confused for 2 reasons.

    First, my thought after this most recent incident is that there’s something going on in Paris, not Egypt. I have no interest in France right now.

    Second, I’m surprised so many of you experienced light security at CAI. When I went in 2014, I remember it was much stricter than many other airports I had been to.

  19. First of all, everyone needs to stop screaming “bomb! bomb!” No one knows what brought down the EgyptAir flight. Speculation does nothing but fuel irrationality.

    As for the CMB to USA return, I can only say what I would do. I would and will not allow myself to be ruled by fear, whether real or perceived. I would and will not alter my plans. And at this point I doubt flying through CAI would be any less safe then transiting through BRU, CDG, MAD or LHR. Actually, an OMAAT report about transiting through CAI in this day and age would actually be very informative and beneficial.

    But of course, the decision to change one’s travel plans is strictly a personal one. Ben needs to do what is comfortable for him.

  20. Clint Eastwood says, “Do you feel lucky? Well, do ya?!?”

    Assuming you have travel routing alternatives (and you obviously do), it’s hard to fathom why someone would willingly take on the extra (terrorism) risk without some corresponding reward (for example, free tickets redeemable only on EgyptAir). Otherwise, you are simply taking on a life-threatening risk (even if it’s still small) for no good reason, which borders on foolhardy.

  21. If I knew that traveling somewhere (except for humanitarian reasons) would keep my mother up at night I would probably not go. Even if the fear is based on speculation, Its not worth it to worry your mother.

  22. As a mother, I understand your Mom’s feelings. Your parents seem so supportive of your career; you might consider “giving” her this one, plus there is just no meaningful benefit here anyway, it is not as though you are going to Cairo for a reason other than routing.

  23. Flying is safe Ben, and you do some of the best blogs I’ve seen. It’s your call, but keep going because if you stop flying with them then the terrorists (whoever they are) win.

  24. I have the same question. I am planning on some flights out or Cairo early next year, and actually spending some time in Cairo. I am still assessing the situation and will wait for the facts to come out. Still, I am more inclined to go than not to go.

  25. So will that mean another biased AA flight instead with those ice cream sundaes. Fukc no!

  26. My wife and I just flew dfw doh CAI LXR and return and found the Egyptian people to be some of the friendliest we have ever met. Yes, the security is lax, we used the Ahlan service which really highlighted the issue. But, if we all just become scared and stop traveling to Egypt who wins? The terrorists and we cannot let that happen. I feel we need to take the proper precautions but continue to go there. We have another flight booked the in August and intend to keep it.

  27. Give your mother a gift…she will sleep better, I guarantee it! Please pick another routing and airline on your bucket list, then circle back to this routing after the cause is determined and (necessary) fixes are made. Fwiw. Cheers.

  28. @Ben: My team and I have been in Egypt the last 72 hours. All I can say right now is that the mood is tense. There is civil tension in the country and all non-citizens on elective travel are being asked to reconsider. I would advise the same for anyone planning a trip to this region since the government and security are already stretched. The last anyone wants is for another tragic event which will require intervention or evacuation of foreign governments and foreign citizens respectively.

    https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/alertswarnings/worldwide-caution.html

  29. Reason ? To fly out of Cairo or on Egyption Air ??? Until the Arab world decides to week out their own who would kill you just because , I would decline .

  30. Yup. I agree with posters. Do it for moms peace not for increased risk (which is a non sensical) argument. Risk may have increased but still less than road travel.

    You never go against your mom’s wishes. Got it?

  31. Was just in Egypt about 3 weeks ago. My friend happened to be on the exact Egypt air route cdg to Cai 3 weeks back it’s still a weird feeling for both of us that it could’ve been us on that plane. Anyway it’s sad to see tourist attractions that go back thousands of years almost deserted especially in Luxor. If I had a choice I wouldn’t fly with Egypt air again. I had low expectations and those expectations were met when the pilot on the flight from Cairo to Luxor was so eager to take off half the pax were still standing in he aisle!

    I felt fairly safe walking around Cairo and Luxor. Middle East is a volitile region things flare up from time to time
    And then calm down. We all know the risks of something happening is potentially higher in that region but we could also die in a freak tornado or any act of Mother Nature.

    But if it makes your family feel more assured I would avoid Egypt for the time being

  32. As imperator said, I can only say “what I would do”. As someone who is based in CAI and frequently fly to Gulf countries (by mostly QR, Gulf Air, Etihad), I have no problem or mind-boggling fear with either flying from CAI airport (especially Terminal 1) and flying with EgyptAir after the incident. But for a while I would avoid any airlines (like Air France) departing from any Paris airport just for my own peace of mind. In conclusion “If I were you”, I would totally stick with an initially planned itinerary.

  33. This flight emanated from Paris, so shouldn’t you be questioning the security in Paris? That is if in fact they determine it was a terrorist attack.

  34. Thanks for adding to all the noise that’s already out there surrounding this tragedy with this post. I hope you feel better.

  35. Perhaps the better question: would you fly from Paris? That is where the latest downed plane flew from – not Cairo.

  36. saving money doesnt mean saving your life.

    it is a hot spot. why go there to save a few bucks? you save more by not even going there.

  37. @ Lucky

    I really hope you read this, Lucky, because I’ve been meaning to thank you for a while now. In about six weeks I’m flying from Cairo to Christchurch in Emirates Business, and no way would I have been able to afford that distance in Business if you hadn’t pointed out the cheap fares out of Cairo. So a huge thank you.

    I agree that the odds of something happening are very small. We live with risks every day. (Just try the traffic here in Riyadh.)

  38. “For what concerns odds I agree that the odds of something happening in Cairo are higher than in other airports, let’s say 0.001% (vs 0.0001 at other airports) but to have two accidents in a small period of time have incredibly low odds: 0.001% x 0.001% is 0.000001%.”
    That is a slight misunderstanding of how probability works.
    The chance of two incidents hapening in the future is ” 0.001% x 0.001% is 0.000001%.””
    The chance of a second incident, after one has already happened, provided nothing else changes, remains 0.001% (conditional probability).
    I have spent a fair bit of time in Egypt and see it as unlikely that anything relevant will change there. I was also thinking of booking a long haul flight with Egyptair again (some good prices even from Europe) but am having second thoughts. A holiday should not start or end with deep unease as to your safety.

  39. @ale gatti: You say “For what concerns odds I agree that the odds of something happening in Cairo are higher than in other airports, let’s say 0.001% (vs 0.0001 at other airports) but to have two accidents in a small period of time have incredibly low odds: 0.001% x 0.001% is 0.000001%.”

    That’s true, but only if (1) the events are independent and (2) you’re estimating the odds prospectively, i.e., in advance. If the events are independent, i.e., one doesn’t cause the other or change what you know about an underlying cause–the odds of a second event once you’ve seen a first event are the same as the odds of a first event before you’ve seen one.

    For example: If I roll a fair die once, the odds are 1 in 6 that it will come up 6. If I roll a fair die twice, the odds are 1 in 36 that it will come up 6 twice. But once I roll one 6, the odds are 1 in 6 that the next roll will come up 6, the same as if I hadn’t just rolled a 6.

    The odds of a terrorist attack on any given flight are the same as before the Egyptair event (assuming that there is no change to the circumstances like more stringent security).

    The logic you quote reminds me of the story of the guy who was afraid of terrorists blowing up his plane, so he took a bomb of his own on board, not planning to detonate it. He figured, bombs on planes are very rare–the odds against two bombs on the same plane must be astronomical!

  40. I wouldn’t go through there. The fact that the Egyptians haven’t fessed up to previous problems with their security procedures means that it is only going to get worse. Why reward them with your business when they refuse to address past problems? And, give your Mom a break – make her happy and avoid Egypt.

  41. @Zach I get the feeling you’d think someone speaking Arabic on a US flight was suspicious. If I’m wrong, I’d still be interested to know how you’d identify a ‘suspicious passenger’ on flights out of Cairo or anywhere else in the Middle East

    @Winecountryflyer Agree completely

  42. I agree with your point of view, however, at this time I would try avoiding egyptian airports for the sake of your mother’s peace of mind.

  43. I wouldn’t travel through that region currently. It is a fact that there is tension in the region currently and two aircraft arriving/departing to/from Egypt have faced tragic consequences.Even if the latest EgyptAir event did not occur, I would urge individuals to avoid flying through that region based on the growing militancy over the last 6 months (not due to Egyptians). The political situation in the region is unstable and in upheaval.

  44. Ben, I really appreciate your blog. Here are my 2 cts. Looking on cheap prices and security issues are one thing. (The security in some Egyptian airports is indeed awful. There is another reason, why one should avoid Egypt: The human rights issue. The human rights record of the Al Sisi regime is really bad, see e.g. the following HRW press release: https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/04/27/egypt-fearing-protests-police-arrest-hundreds. Apart from the violations of the freedom of assembly also fair trial guarantees are in every single trial violated. Court sentence people in mass trials to dead disregarding the rights of the defandants. In this months Egypt should definetely not be the place for reviewing airlines or hotels.

  45. Just say no… If what you see (security) appears lax, what you hear (culture) appears unmotivated, then it can be a safe bet that what you ride on out of the country is risky. Be it equipment, fuel, passengers or personnel… The risk is screaming loudly, just in a small, .000% odds game, is easy to dismiss.

    Don’t be the last fool to buy a Yugo, a ticket on an unsinkable ship, or that ticket via Egypt.

  46. I must say that most of the “stay away” vote has never been to the Middle East so for me very hard to understand their fear? For those of us who have been there and VERY recently feel that we cannot give into the result of this horrible behavior that is hurting the everyday Egyptian citizen so badly. They need for the world to continue to support their economy. With that being said doing it prudently in these times is smart. I have my next flight booked in August and will be back to this amazing country and its people.

  47. @Michael Haddad

    Very well and beautifully said.

    I will be returning to KSA in September and shall endeavor to carve out some time for a weekend trip to Luxor. I love Egypt (especially Cairo!) and am so anxious to return.

  48. I like Egypt and will continue to go if the cheap fares continue. It’s a bit surprising that Qatar tolerates the nightmarish conditions in Terminal 1: perhaps they continue to offer them because no one would fly into or out of that terminal with regular fares.
    It would be hard to recommend it to a first time visitor no matter how cheap the fare.
    I looked at booking a stay at Sharm El Sheikh but it appears that every airline has now abandoned it except for Egyptair.

  49. That’s settled then, skip Cairo and take Kuwait Air (given you teased for a long time that you would do a review on them). It’s one of the cheaper carriers, and your readers are always interested in two things – cheap premium fares (which Kuwait offer) and redeeming opportunities on the more expensive carriers (which you have done to death).

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