Egypt grounds Luxor hot-air balloons after several drift over city's airport

Civil Aviation Authority says it will devise a new safety framework before allowing balloon rides to resume

Hot-air balloons prepare to take off at dawn on the west bank of the Nile in Luxor, Egypt. AP Photo
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Hot air balloon rides in the historic Egyptian city of Luxor have been halted until further notice, a ride operator in the city told The National on Thursday.

The country’s Civil Aviation Authority said there had been an increased number of complaints from Luxor Airport that hot-air balloons, which ride operator Omar Mohamed says are notoriously difficult to control, were encroaching on the airport’s fly zones, raising safety concerns.

Mr Mohamed told The National that he and other operators anticipate that rides will resume by next week, calling the hiatus a “slap on the wrist” from the government because of an increased number of hot-air balloons, which typically take off on the city’s less inhabited western Nile bank, have been crossing into the busier eastern bank where the city centre is.

The Civil Aviation Authority said that it will allow rides to resume after a safety framework is put in place to ensure that encroachments on flights out of the airport do not recur in the future.

Mr Mohamed said that the city of Luxor had been particularly busy with tourists over the past few weeks, which increased demand for hot-air balloon rides.

He said that it is very difficult for balloon pilots to control exactly where they fly because they are often at the mercy of the wind, which gets stronger as the balloons rise higher in the air. He said it was the responsibility of aeroplane pilots to move out of the way of hot-air balloons since aeroplanes are easier to control.

Hot-air balloon accidents are not unheard of in Luxor.

In July, one crashed into another in mid-air and had to make an emergency landing while carrying 28 tourists. Two people sustained minor injuries and videos of the incident were widely shared on social media.

In 2013, another crash killed 19 tourists and another in 2009 injured 16.

Updated: September 09, 2022, 4:33 AM