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Egyptian officials said recently that they’re getting closer to meeting all demands set by Russia on airport security to resume flights to Egypt. The flights were suspended after militants from a local affiliate of the Islamic State downed a Russian airliner 15 months ago over the Sinai Peninsula.
Since the crash, Egypt has spent millions of dollars to upgrade security at its airports, especially in Cairo and several popular foreign tourist destinations, like Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada on the Red Sea.
Dawn.com quoted officials saying work has begun to install 16 fingerprint security gates for employees at two of Cairo airport’s main terminals and to separate a potentially vulnerable 1 km stretch of fence separating the east Cairo facility from a residential suburb.
The officials said 12 fingerprint gates have already been installed at terminal 2, the airport’s newest terminal from which Russian national carrier Aeroflot was expected to operate when flights resume. The decision to install similar gates at terminals 1 and 3 was recommended by the Russians.
The fingerprint scans were purchased in place of retinal scans that airport officials had said in October they would tender for the employees’ gates but which proved to be too expensive and more difficult to operate.
Among the measures taken to meet Russian security demands was the installment of 18 security cameras on the Cairo airport’s perimeter fence with a clear vision range of two kilometers along with equipment that allows the storage of 30 days of footage at any given time. The previous ones stored up to two days of footage.
Russian airport security experts visited Egypt on at least six occasions since the 2015 crash to assess the effectiveness of new security measures put in place by the Egyptians to persuade Moscow to resume flights. The latest Russian inspection took place earlier this year and the Egyptian officials said they would invite them back in about two weeks to inspect the facility one last time before they give the airport their approval.
Russian officials have also claimed that they were close to resuming flights to Egypt, but they have yet to set a specific date.
Britain followed Russia’s example and suspended all flights to Sharm el-Sheikh after the crash, dealing an equally serious blow to Egypt’s tourism industry since Britons and Russians accounted for more than half of foreign visitors to Egypt on the eve of the crash.
The slump in tourism, along with a series of minor but disruptive terror attacks targeting foreign tourists or touristic sites, has significantly contributed to Egypt’s economic decline, primarily creating an acute foreign currency shortage that pushed the local currency’s value down in the free market.
Security related problems at Cairo airport, however, persist. Airport security officials said a random check not long ago, targeting personnel working on the facility’s grounds nabbed 23 employees with expired access permits, driving without a license or exceeding the speed limit.