CAIRO TRANSIT – TOO HOT TO HANDLE?
As information filtered into Uganda about international airlines cancelling their scheduled flights to Cairo and other Egyptian ‘hot spots’ while charter airlines were busy flying passengers home from the Red Sea resorts and other tourist centres in Egypt, travel agents here in Uganda – and reportedly also in other East African countries – began to quietly warn potential travellers using Egypt Air to connect in Cairo to their final destination, that they ‘might be stuck’ in Cairo if onward flights would fail to materialise for lack of crews, maintenance, fuelling or ground handling services. This was seen as a precautionary measure however to avoid inherent liabilities, should indeed something like this happen and the travellers would then make claims against their agents who ‘should have known better’.
Egypt Air presently flies 3 times a week between Entebbe and Cairo – more flights were planned for the future – and much of the traffic is actually connecting traffic to European and other destinations. Egypt Air, a member of the global Star Alliance, has over the years built up a faithful following and it is according to a source at their Kampala office only a matter of time, after ‘things settle down in Egypt’ that previous traffic levels would resume. Shortly afterwards the same source did pass on ‘confidential information’ that they had received information that all flights during curfew hours – which in past days varied widely – would NOT be operating, urging passengers to call their local Egypt Air offices for up to date information.
Subsequent to this information it was then learned that Egypt Air has finally owned up to their – what has been described as a ‘totally chaotic’ situation at Cairo’s international airport – by halting acceptance of ALL transit passengers travelling with them via Cairo to their final destination. An airline source well acquainted with MK’s operations said under condition of anonymity: ‘all their flights out of Cairo are fully booked by people trying to escape the chaos in the country. The curfew hours, which have also been changing a lot in a very unpredictable way, also make it difficult for them to have staff come on duty, so ground handling, fueling, processing of passengers etc are only possible outside curfew hours because staff have to reach the airport or their homes after duty. This situation will last for a while longer until the political situation has been sorted out, but until then anyone booked with Egypt Air is best advised to make alternative arrangements to get to their destination. Those stranded abroad and wanting to get back home with Egypt Air, like in your case to Uganda, should find out from the local Egypt Air office if they can help to endorse their tickets to travel on another airline but it is a difficult period for them. About compensation, well if booked in a jurisdiction like Europe, that might be possible, but not immediately.’
There are however also ‘hints’ from some travel agents in Kampala that Turkish Airlines (they are a Star Alliance member too) has been able to materialize on the misfortunes of Egypt Air, again pointed out entirely caused by the political situation in the home country and not over ‘real airline issues’. It is not at this stage known how many – if any – travellers have moved ‘over’ to other airlines since the outbreak of political violence in Egypt and the travel agents in regular touch with this correspondent only vaguely said ‘some have moved to avoid problems’ while others said ‘we are closely looking at developments and will tell our clients how best to reach their destination, with Egypt Air (when operating normally again) or other airlines if need be’.