For just a $30 fee, security measures can be completely waived for passengers traveling through the Sinai’s Sharm el-Sheikh International Airport, from where a Russia-bound jet took off in late October and crashed a few hundred miles into its route, killing all 224 people on board.
The Islamic State terror group’s affiliate in the Sinai Peninsula has claimed credit for bringing down the jet, and Western intelligence officials continue to find evidence that there may have been a bomb placed in the cargo compartment of the Airbus plane.
The alleged bribes system and other lax security measures were routinely denied by Egyptian media, but witnesses continue to allege that the airport is not secure.
An unnamed Egyptian woman told Al Arabiya that airport staff routinely asks for a bribe for passengers who wish to check extra luggage. “Given the low salaries earned by travel security staff, I understand why they could resort to breaching the laws,” she said.
Another Egyptian citizen told the Saudi-owned network about her experience at Sharm el-Sheikh airport: “I was passing through the body and baggage screening. One of the women security officers was joking with us, saying ‘got any bombs? Any guns? Any knives?’ This was after 9/11 – I didn’t find it funny.”
A Saudi tourist said of his time going through security at the resort-city:
I used to go with my family, and we had lots of bags as we used to stay for the whole summer. When airport security used to see my green passport and veiled wife, they used to come to me and greet me like a king, the most senior would walk us to the baggage searching point and then would say in a cheeky way: so, shall we open all these bags … OR?
Moreover, the Associated Press spoke with seven current employees at the airport, and they relayed similar stories.
“I can’t tell you how many times I have caught a bag full of drugs or weapons that they have let through for 10 euros or whatever,” said one security official.
Another revealed that the scanner for checked bags rarely works because officials are not trained to handle the system. “I have seen people unplug it to save power,” an official told AP.
“We only care about appearances. Once they (higher-ups) hear something is coming, suddenly everything gets fixed. … We wish we had visits every day,” another commented.
Just last week, Russia, Britain, and Ireland all suspended flights to the Red Sea resort city, and another half-dozen Western governments urged their citizens not to visit the area, citing safety concerns.