BA suspends flights to Cairo; EgyptAir responds with more flights

“In liaison with the French authorities and the local authorities in Egypt, Air France has decided to maintain its service to Cairo,” Air France’s spokesman said in a written statement sent to Reuters. (File/AFP)
Updated 22 July 2019

BA suspends flights to Cairo; EgyptAir responds with more flights

  • British Airways, a unit of IAG, said it was suspending flights to Cairo for seven days “as a precaution”
  • Germany’s Lufthansa later said it had canceled its flights to Cairo from Munich and Frankfurt and would resume its connection

PARIS: British Airways suspended all flights to Cairo for a week on Saturday as a security “precaution.” British Airways cited “security concerns” for its decision, but gave no details about what prompted the move.
“We constantly review our security arrangements at all our airports around the world, and have suspended flights to Cairo for seven days as a precaution to allow for further assessment,” BA said in a statement.
The airline added that it would never operate an aircraft unless it was safe to do so. When asked by Reuters for more details about why flights to Cairo had been suspended and what security arrangements the airline was reviewing, a spokeswoman responded: “We never discuss matters of security.”
Germany’s Lufthansa followed the BA announcement by also canceling its Cairo-bound planes, but its flights from Munich and Frankfurt to Cairo International Airport resumed on Sunday.
Sherif Mohsen, a traveller, told Arab news: “We received an alert from British Airways saying their flights has been canceled for a week. We all panicked. What kind of message is this? We were saved by our agency finding an alternative through the Turkish Airlines. We were lucky, but what about the rest of the people?”
An Egyptian billionaire, Naguib Sawaris, reacted on Twitter saying: “So if security agencies in the West have information on a possible terror attack that caused BA and Lufthansa to stop flights to Egypt why not inform Egyptian security forces? Instead of this double standard isn’t it a common war on terror?”

An official source at the Egyptian Ministry of Civil Aviation said on Saturday that reports on the suspension of London-Cairo flights for seven days have not been issued by the UK Transportation Department or British Foreign Office.
The Egyptian ministry said that the verification of the source of the reports is underway in coordination with the representative of the British operator in Cairo.
The Ahram news agency said it learned from a source that a British inspection team had checked security at Cairo International Airport last week and the results were “positive.” The team praised security measures at the airport.
In response to the decision by British Airways, Egypt’s Ministry of Civil Aviation Ministry decided to increase seating capacity on EgyptAir flights heading to London, and run additional flights from Cairo to London’s Heathrow from Sunday by using the newly delivered Boeing 787 Dreamliner during the suspension period.
Adham Hassan, a pilot analyzing the situation, said Cairo airport currently had more than 4000 Algerian fans at the terminal used by Lufthansa and British Airways. He said the fans were in the lounges without tickets and were out of control. The military flight which brought them to Egypt was not allowed to wait so it left them behind, leaving the fans stuck without tickets. “I think the companies considered this a security breach and thus stopped their trips until the end of the crisis. That’s my analysis, anyway.”
Mahgoub Saeed, a political analyst, said: “The real reason is the violence carried out by the massed Algerians in Hall 4 at Cairo airport. This flight suspension will not last long and will end very soon after the violence has been ended. This is a precautionary measure often taken by airlines in the event of exposure to one of the airports in the world to rioting.”
A video spread on the social media showing Algerian fans attacking the Egyptian police and throwing stones and bottles. Algerians were present in Egypt this week supporting and celebrating their victory for the African Cup of Nations.

Egypt’s creative solutions to the plastic menace

Updated 24 August 2019

Egypt’s creative solutions to the plastic menace

  • Egyptian social startups are taking alternative approaches to fostering awareness and reducing waste
  • While initiatives around the world are taking action to combat this problem, some Egyptian projects are doing it more creatively

CAIRO: Global plastics production reached 348 million tons in 2017, rising from 335 million tons in 2016, according to Plastics Europe. 

Critically, most plastic waste is not properly managed: Around 55 percent of it was landfilled or discarded in 2015. These numbers are extremely concerning because plastic products take anything from 450 to 1,000 years to decompose, and the effects on the environment, especially on marine and human life, are catastrophic.

While initiatives around the world are taking action to combat this problem, some Egyptian projects are doing it more creatively.

“We’re the first website in the Middle East and North Africa that trades waste,” said Alaa Afifi, founder and CEO of Bekia. “People can get rid of any waste at their disposal — plastic, paper and cooking oil — and exchange it for over 65 products on our website.”

Products for trading include rice, tea, pasta, cooking oil, subway tickets and school supplies.

Bekia was launched in Cairo in 2017. Initially, the business model did not prove successful.

“We used to rent a car and go to certain locations every 40 days to collect waste from people,” Afifi, 26, explained. “We then created a website and started encouraging people to use it.”

After the website was launched, people could wait at home for someone to collect the waste. “Instead of 40 days, we now could visit people within a week.”

To use Bekia’s services, people need to log onto the website and specify what they want to discard. They are assigned points based on the waste they are offering, and these points can be used in one of three ways: Donated to people in need, saved for later, or exchanged for products. As for the collected waste, it is given to specialized recycling companies for processing.

“We want to have 50,000 customers over the next two years who regularly use our service to get rid of their waste,” Afifi said.  

Trying to spread environmental awareness has not been easy. “We had a lot of trouble with initial investment at first, and we got through with an investment that was far from enough. The second problem we faced was spreading this culture among people — in the first couple of months, we received no orders,” Afifi said.

The team soldiered on and slowly built a client base, currently serving 7,000 customers. In terms of what lies ahead for Bekia, he said: “We’re expanding from 22 to 30 areas in Cairo this year. We’re launching an app very soon and a new website with better features.”

Go Clean, another Egyptian recycling startup dedicated to raising environmental awareness, works under the patronage of the Ministry of Environment. “We started in 2017 by recycling waste from factories, and then by February 2019 we started expanding,” said founder and CEO Mohammed Hamdy, 30.

The Cairo-based company collects recyclables from virtually all places, including households, schools, universities, restaurants, cafes, companies and embassies. The customers separate the items into categories and then fill out a registration form. Alternatively, they can make contact through WhatsApp or Facebook. A driver is then dispatched to collect the waste, carrying a scale to weigh it. 

“The client can be paid in cash for the weight of their recyclables, or they can make a donation to a special needs school in Cairo,” Hamdy explained. There is also the option of trading the waste for dishwashing soap, with more household products to be added in the future.

Trying to cover a country with 100 million people was never going to be easy, and Go Clean faced some logistical problems. It overcame them by hiring more drivers and getting more trucks. There was another challenge along the way: “We had to figure out a way to train the drivers, from showing them how to use GPS and deal with clients,” said Hamdy.

“We want to spread awareness about the environment everywhere. We go to schools, universities, companies and even factories to give sessions about the importance of recycling and how dangerous plastic is. We’re currently covering 20 locations across Cairo and all of Alexandria. We want to cover all of Egypt in the future,” he added.

With a new app on the way, Hamdy said things are looking positive for the social startup, and people are becoming invested in the initiative. “We started out with seven orders per day, and now we get over 100.”