The Egyptair hijacking today has turned out to be a relatively benign event by comparison with what the world’s instant media was preparing its audience for – an attack by Daesh.
The flight was scheduled from Alexandria, Egypt, to Cairo, but a passenger claimed to be wearing a suicide vest and wanted to go to Cyprus, so the captain did what he asked and flew him to Larnaca.
This takes aviation back to the pre-9/11 security stone-age. The captain should have been able to have sufficient faith in the airport security system to know that the claim to be wearing a suicide vest or belt was a hoax, and thus to have refused the request and ordered the cabin crew to restrain the passenger.
The trouble for this Egyptair captain is that he did not have the necessary faith in the Egyptian security system to deny the hijacker his demand, and the reason he didn’t is because of the successful sabotage of a Russian Metrojet Airbus A321 out of Sharm el-Sheikh in late October last year. Somebody got explosives on board, they were detonated over Sinai, and all on board were killed. So this captain’s decision not to risk the passengers is understandable.
It may be that Egypt has beefed up its airport security since Sharm el-Sheikh – especially the screening of employees as well as passengers, but if the crew’s faith in the security system is still not there, hijackers will continue to be able to make demands on aircraft commanders, and the captains, like this one, may feel they have to comply with the demand, just in case the hijacker’s claim to have control of explosives is true.
A suicide vest or belt that could bring an aircraft down would be detected by even the most cursory airport security checks. If crews have lost faith in the security system to this extent, this sort of event could occur regularly.