Despite what appears to be the somewhat farcical nature of the EgyptAir hijacking, any aeroplane incident is liable to raise more concerns in the mind of the travelling public.
The bombing of the Russian Metrojet airliner in October, and subsequent questions about the efficacy of Egypt’s aviation security, virtually ended the tourism industry in its Red Sea resorts. So, Egyptian authorities will doubtless be mightily relieved that this incident of hijacking does not have any links to Islamic State-related terror.
It is so far unclear whether the hijacker made it to the A320’s flight deck (cockpit) or simply threatened crew and passengers in the cabin with his purported explosives.
Philip Baum, author of Violence in the Skies: A History of Aircraft Hijacking and Bombing , said: “Generally it’s up to the captain of the aircraft to determine whether they have someone with suicidal intent. Obviously first you’d try to overpower them if so. But if they feel it could be managed by following his demands, a landing without anyone being hurt, then that’s what you’d do.
Though few might want to encourage such a course of action, there are precedents that suggest the hijacker’s demands may yet be partially met. An asylum claim would have to be considered, Mr. Baum suggested: “If he’s got psychological problems there will be concerns about repatriating him to Egypt.”
Previous hijackers have eventually been successful in claims for asylum, such as the Afghans who diverted a Sudan Airways flight to Stansted in 1996, also via Larnaca. One ended up working as a cleaner for British Airways at Heathrow airport.
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