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Sphinx takes off
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 31 - 01 - 2019

Trial operations of the newly inaugurated Sphinx International Airport (SIA) began this week with a number of domestic flights. International flights are scheduled to start in the near future.
Younis Al-Masry, the minister of civil aviation, and Rania Al-Mashat, the minister of tourism, attended a ceremony to celebrate the first domestic flight from the airport to Aswan on 25 January.
The plane's 70 seats were fully occupied, the majority of passengers being foreign nationals. The following day's flight headed to Sharm El-Sheikh with 20 foreigners on board. The remaining passengers were Egyptian.
Al-Mashat said at the inauguration ceremony that the SIA would boost tourism and increase the number of foreign holiday-makers arriving in Egypt. The fact that the airport is built close to the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM), set to open in 2020, would facilitate the arrival of tourists at the museum, located 15 minutes from the airport and 12km from the Pyramids area, she said.
Travel agencies will be encouraged to arrange itineraries that include both the GEM and coastal resorts such as Sharm El-Sheikh, Hurghada and New Alamein thanks to the SIA. Diversifying itineraries and mixing cultural tourism with other activities would attract more vacationers to Egypt, Al-Mashat said.
The SIA would also facilitate domestic transport during the Cup of African Nations that Egypt will host in June, she said.
Al-Masry said a breakthrough in the civil aviation industry would be realised this year, notably through the opening of new airports in the New Administrative Capital and the resort of Bernice in Marsa Alam on the Red Sea.
Additional buildings and projects would be built at already operational airports, and new state-of-the-art planes would join EgyptAir's fleet. Navigation and weather systems would also be upgraded, he said.
He added that the SIA was in line with the strategic goals of the Egypt Vision 2030, targeting sustainable development and making available the infrastructure necessary to encourage foreign investments and boost tourism.
The new airport comprises a main building, housing a 975 square metre departure hall and a 1,100 square metre arrival hall that can accommodate 300 passengers per hour, in addition to five counters, a VIP hall, 27 administrative bureaus, offices for passports, customs and security, a control tower, and a number of service buildings spread over 26,000 square metres.
The SIA is equipped with state-of-the-art technology in air-traffic control and automatic landing systems and security systems such as x-ray detectors, high-end CCTV, and thermal surveillance cameras.
A power station has been specially built to feed eight sub-stations at the airport, in addition to a 1,500 cubic metre water tank to feed the water and fire-extinguishing networks. There is also a meteorology building, a mosque, and a parking lot that can accommodate hundreds of cars.
The airport was built in collaboration between the Armed Forces and the Egypt Investment Company with a budget of LE300 million. It will alleviate pressure on the Cairo International Airport east of the capital.
The main gate to the airport lies on the Cairo-Alexandria Desert Road, serving the cities of 6 October and Sheikh Zayed and the governorates of Fayoum, Beni Sweif and Minya.
Sherif Khalil, chairman of EgyptAir Express for regional and domestic routes, said that “as a result of increasing demand during the mid-year school holidays, the company has decided to increase the number of flights from 25 January to 9 February.”
“There will now be 20 additional flights to Luxor, 25 additional flights to Aswan, and six additional flights from Aswan to Abu Simbel. These include 30 flights that will embark from the SIA and head to the Sharm El-Sheikh, Hurghada, Luxor and Aswan airports,” he added.


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