Russia and Egypt resume flights, after bomb fears suspension
Russia and Egypt resumed flights Wednesday, after the bombing of a Russian charter in 2015 by the Islamic State group led to a two-year suspension of air traffic between the two countries.
Security concerns led to the two-year hiatus, after the Russian airliner was downed over the Suez after a bomb was believed to be smuggled onboard the flight.
This led to a major blow for the Egyptian economy, with Russian tourists in Suez resorts a major source of income for the country.
On Wednesday evening an Aeroflot plane will take off from Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport to Cairo.
This is the first step towards restoring flights to holiday destinations on the Red Sea.
The following day, Egyptair will restart its service between the Cairo and Moscow.
The two companies will together carry out five return flights between Moscow and Cairo a week.
Yet it will still be some time before it will be business as usual for Egypt.
"Tourists do not need direct flights to Cairo. The transfer from Cairo to sea resorts is long and uncomfortable, and no one will be going there in that way," Russian Tourism Industry spokeswoman Irina Tyurina told AFP.
"In practice, the situation is the same as it was before, when people would get there independently via Minsk or Istanbul - either big fans of Egypt or Russians who live there," she said.
"Egypt is not yet back as a tourist destination for the Russian market."
In 2015 a flight carrying mostly Russian holidaymakers from the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheik was destroyed with a bomb, killing all 224 people on board.
The attack was claimed by the Islamic State group.
Foreign tourists in Egypt fell from 14.7 million in 2010 to 5.4 million in 2016, after unrest following the toppling of former President Hosni Mubarak.
In 2017 that number recovered to 8.3 million visitors, according to official figures.
Revenues from tourism at the same time dropped by two thirds, from $11.6 billion in 2010 to $3.8 billion in 2016, according to the Egyptian Central Bank.
Moscow and Cairo will decide on a date discuss the resumption of flights to Egyptian tourist destinations once flights between the two capitals have resumed, the Egyptian ambassador to Russia Ihab Nasr has said.
Russian officials have meanwhile not hidden their concerns about direct flights being restarted.
"The resumption of direct flights to Egypt, in particular to resort areas, is a great worry for us," Aleksandr Neradko, head of the Russian Federal Air Navigation Authority, said last week in comments reported by Russian agencies.
Eight Russian experts will be sent to Cairo airport to check security measures are being enforced on flights towards Moscow, according to the Egyptian daily al-Ahram.