The plane crash in the north-eastern region of Egypt, Sinai, will have serious ramifications for the travel risk management, should it be attributed to terrorism.
Recap: what happened in Egypt?
On 31st October, a Russian airline, carrying 224 people, crashed in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, shortly after taking off from Sharm el-Sheikh airport. All passengers, who were predominantly Russian, were killed.
In response, the UK government, having intercepted ‘chatter’ between Islamic State affiliated militants in the region, believe it is highly likely that the plane was brought down by an explosive device. All flights to Sharm el-Sheikh from the UK have been suspended, and there were serious delays for passengers returning to the UK.
Other nations, including Russia, have since followed suit, and it seems to be becoming more and more apparent that this was an act of terrorism. Analysis of the planes black boxes suggests a sudden, catastrophic event, and the airliner, Metrojet, says some sort of impact must have caused the plane to break up.
What next for travel?
This catastrophe has ramifications for both Egyptian and global travel.
For Egypt, a country where tourism has traditionally been such an important part of its economy, this event is incredibly damaging. After the revolution in 2011, and dangers from rising insurgency and heavy-handed security forces, Egypt’s tourism industry has imploded. Despite the turbulence in the region, Sharm el-Sheikh had remained a ‘safe’ area, but that label will be damaged or abolished. It’s without question that this is a tragedy for Egyptian people, as well as the families of the victims.
In terms of global travel and aviation, the Metrojet crash could well prove significant too. Airport security, particularly in ‘risk areas’ such as the Middle East and North Africa, will likely be overhauled, if an explosive-device was in fact the cause of the crash. The UK foreign secretary, Phillip Hammond, has already suggested this. Tourism in these regions can be expected to continue its decline.
We can also expect more changes to airline flight paths to avoid risk areas. Although a surface to air missile has been ruled out as the cause of the crash, in response to the disaster, many airlines have stopped flying over Northern and central Sinai until the cause of the crash is determined. As an assurance of aviation safety to passengers, precautions like this will only become more common, especially after the Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 shoot-down in 2014.
This all translates to potential longer flights for travellers, and added costs to tickets.
What about for TMCs?
The Sinai plane crash highlights the importance – perhaps growing importance – of travel risk management for TMCs.
The question each TMC needed to ask itself is this: what is your strategy for such disruptive events? As we saw in Sharm el-Sheikh, flights were suspended and travellers were left stranded. TMCs need the means to track travellers, communicate with them and provide the support they need in these scenarios. We see major disruptions, caused by instabilities, terrorism and natural phenomena every year, so defining your agency’s actions before an event occurs will ensure you fulfill your duty of care responsibilities effectively.
In the bigger picture of things, the Sinai crash also highlights the importance of risk management. Access to travel intelligence, with round-the-clock alerts, will help you to react to potential threats before your clients may be affected by major disruptions. With growing risks of terrorism in certain regions, this intelligence will help your clients to make decisions about travel in advance.