Cairo: Egypt`s national carrier on Friday temporarily suspended its flights from the capital, while international airlines scrambled to readjust their schedules to accommodate a government-imposed curfew as mounting street protests presented President Hosni Mubarak`s government with its most serious challenge ever.
Separately, the United States warned its citizens against any nonessential travel to Egypt and cautioned Americans already in the country to stay put. The warning came hours after Friday`s anti-government protests spiralled out of control, forcing the deployment of the military which Egyptian state television said would work alongside the police to enforce the curfew and restore order.
EgyptAir said it was suspending its departures from Cairo for 12 hours, beginning at 9 pm, a move linked to the curfew which is in effect from 6 pm to 7 am.
The curfew presented international airlines with a problem. Many flights in Cairo arrive late in the evening or in the pre-dawn hours. Several international airlines said they were working to reschedule their flights to ensure that their passengers arrived outside the curfew.
An official at Cairo`s international airport said some foreign airlines had cancelled or rerouted flights slated to arrive on Friday night, including Air France. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid breaching instructions about contacting the media.
Delta Air Lines, the only US carrier that flies directly to Egypt, cancelled its Friday night flight from New York to Cairo. That flight was not expected to leave until Saturday, some 11 hours late, and Delta also planned to cancel its Saturday night flight from Cairo to New York. Spokesman Anthony Black attributed the cancelations to "the general civil unrest in Cairo”.
Air France said its once-daily flight to Cairo was rerouted to Beirut and would continue to Cairo on Saturday morning. The airline said its Saturday flight was cancelled while the airline tried to amend its schedule.
British Airways also said it was trying to change the timing of its Cairo flights, but had yet to cancel any of the trips. Flights to the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh remained unaffected, the airline said.
German carrier Lufthansa said it had two flights scheduled for Saturday, and was waiting to see how the situation develops before deciding whether the flights would proceed as scheduled. The German airline said its Friday flight to Cairo arrived as scheduled.
The disruptions so far appear to be limited to Cairo, and the vital tourism sector has yet to really be significantly affected. But analysts have said that if the protests continue, or if they start approaching the Red Sea resorts, cancellations could mount, depriving the country of millions of dollars a day in sorely needed revenue.
Norwegian Cruise Line on Friday announced that its Norwegian Jade ship will not be making a scheduled stop in the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria, where the ship had been expected to dock overnight Saturday. Instead the ship will go to Istanbul Saturday through Monday, said NCL spokeswoman Courtney Recht.