Thursday,19 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1297, (26 May - 1 June 2016)
Thursday,19 October, 2017
Issue 1297, (26 May - 1 June 2016)

Ahram Weekly

The Eye of Horus sheds a tear

The national carrier for over eight decades, EgyptAir has been granted national icon status by a nation grieving after the tragic crash of Flight 804, reports Dina Ezzat

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Al-Ahram Weekly

“Bring continents and cultures closer together” is the slogan that EgyptAir uses on its Twitter account.

For over 80 years, since its launch in the early 1930s, EgyptAir, now a member of the Star Alliance Network, has been expanding flights to cover the four corners of the globe, from the Far East to South America.

Under the Eye of Horus, the ancient blue Egyptian symbol of power and protection, the national carrier has for the most part enjoyed a reputation for having some of the world’s best pilots.

Horus was the ancient Egyptian god of the skies. His eye, supposedly that of a falcon, is sometimes drawn with a teardrop.

Throughout its history, EgyptAir suffered few crashes. One exception was the crash of MS804 that was carrying 66 passengers, including 30 Egyptians and 15 French citizens, from Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport to Cairo International Airport at dawn on Thursday 19 May.

There have been few EgyptAir incidents because of the reputable efficiency of its pilots and engineers, despite disparaging comments made by international aviation authorities regarding EgyptAir inspections or allegations of corruption that have been raised by critics.

Going by international rankings, EgyptAir is not high on the list of plane crashes, even while taking into consideration that the overall number of its annual flights is significantly less than that of other airliners who have suffered more tragic accidents.

“We support the national carrier — always and firmly, and we are proud of the incredible efforts of its staff,” wrote Fayza Ahmed Ahmed Mohamed on the EgyptAir Facebook page.

The words of Mohamed, part of a longer posting, was in solidarity with the national carrier in the aftermath of the MS804 crash and the subsequent concern over the future of the airliner, a key part of the otherwise decaying tourism industry in Egypt.

Other comments on the EgyptAir Facebook and Twitter accounts expressed confidence that the crash — whether eventually proven to be due to a bomb, pilot error or a faulty plane — will not deter loyal passengers.

Such clientele were not swayed after the crash of the MS flight from New York to Cairo near Nantucket Island on 31 October 1999 amid rumours that the pilot committed suicide, though nobody ever provided concrete evidence of a deliberate takedown of the plane. There was another rumour that the Nantucket plane had over 30 highly trained military officers on board, again never officially confirmed by Egyptian authorities.

There is no reason to think that it would be easier to reveal the real reason behind the tragic end of MS804. In a best-case scenario it might take years to find an answer to the many questions: an error, an explosion caused by a bomb or a rocket attack, with the latter scenario being mostly excluded by a retired military aviation pilot who spoke briefly to Al-Ahram Weekly.

“The kind of image that we now want to emphasise is the image of a carrier that has some of the world’s best trained pilots and very attentive attendants, and that is always working to improve its services,” said an official of the national carrier.

He added that the company is also working to dispel “silly rumours” like the one suggesting that some international news channel had alluded to a possible suicide by the pilot of MS804. “I don’t know where this stuff comes from,” he said.

In the Egyptian myth, the eye was not the passive organ of sight but more an agent of action. Today, EgyptAir is working to recover its strength by lending support to many of its crew members who have yet to fly passengers around the world and provide them, in accordance to the shared testimonies across social media, with additional support and comfort.

It is also, according to one member of the administration, trying to capitalise on the “heartwarming and reassuring show of strength” that it has been receiving via social media from foreigners, not just from Egyptians, who recalled the incredible performance of the EgyptAir crew with the plane that was briefly hijacked a couple of months ago to Cyprus on its way from Cairo to Alexandria.

On 29 March an allegedly mentally disturbed passenger forced an internal EgyptAir flight to head to Cyprus where the plane landed safely and where all passengers were freed before the peaceful arrest of the hijacker.

The accounts coming from the 12-hour ordeal were full of gratitude for the poise of the pilot and attendants alike. Then, like this week, “respect EgyptAir” became a catch phrase on social media.

As for business decisions proposed on the EgyptAir Facebook and Twitter accounts by flyers, including the need for the company to offer its frequent passengers cheaper ticket fairs and a more generous bonus of miles, the EgyptAir source said, “This is not something that we have to attend to today or tomorrow, although business plans are reviewed on a regular basis.”

According to the source, there “has not been” a surge in cancellation of EgyptAir flights.

“I don’t have the figures and I am not saying that there was no scare whatsoever, but I am saying that I think we still have the confidence of our clients,” he said.

The new plight of EgyptAir comes at a time when Egyptian aviation officials, along with political authorities in Cairo, have been trying hard to plug the holes in airport safety in Egypt following the crash of a charter flight carrying Russian vacationers back home from Sinai.

Today, as families and friends of the victims pray for their loved ones, officials in Cairo are also praying that this latest crisis shall also pass without significant business damage.

 

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