Egypt resumes hot air balloon flights after accident injures two

A hot air balloon crash near Luxor in 2013 killed 19 tourists

Egyptian authorities suspended hot air ballooning over the ancient city of Luxor after two tourists were lightly injured during a ride early on Monday. AP
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Hot air balloon rides in the Egyptian city of Luxor resumed on Wednesday following a brief hiatus after two foreign tourists were injured when one of the balloons made an emergency landing on Monday.

In a statement announcing the resumption, the country’s civil aviation ministry said that a committee was formed to look into the accident and ensure that rides were safe for tourists again.

The committee gave the green light for rides to resume on Tuesday night, one day after the incident, which saw a balloon carrying 28 tourists veer off course amid high-wind speeds. The balloon reportedly collided with another while in the air, resulting in a minor tearing of its parachute which caused the emergency landing.

Alaa El Din Mohamed, 49, a hot air balloon ride operator in Luxor, witnessed Monday’s incident. He and other ride operators in the city were surprised by the attention the incident received.

“It really wasn’t a big deal at all. The balloon rose up in the air about 10 metres, not 60 as everyone is saying. If it was 60 metres and they had to emergency land, everyone in that basket would be dead,” he said, “Keep in mind 60 metres is larger than a 15-storey building.”

Ride operators in the area praised the quick response of the pilot of the balloon involved in the incident, Mr Mohamed revealed, saying that it was clever of him to rev up the burner when he did, which markedly slowed down the emergency landing.

“I think the fact that the tear in the parachute was small also helped a great deal,” he added.

Mohamed said that the incident, videos of which were widely shared on social media, was over in just a few minutes.

“Media in this country likes to blow everything out of proportion, which is exactly what happened here. But I understand the eye is always on Luxor because of how important it is for tourism,” continued Mr Mohamed.

Hot air balloon rides are among Luxor’s most popular tourist activities as many like to enjoy a bird’s-eye view of the city’s Pharaonic temples.

Balloon accidents are not uncommon in the city, where a hot-air balloon crash killed 19 tourists in 2013.

In another incident in 2009, 16 tourists sustained injuries when the balloon they were in veered off course and collided with a cell phone tower.

Seven tourists were injured when another balloon had a similar collision the year before.

A sunrise balloon tour in Luxor

A sunrise hot air balloon ride over the ancient city of Luxor

A sunrise hot-air balloon ride over the ancient city of Luxor
Updated: June 13, 2023, 10:53 AM