Chaos at Cairo International Airport

The first thing you come across whenever you travel is definitely the airport. As a travel fanatic, I have always been interested in studying the details of any airport I land in, such as the organization, cleanliness, ease of finding your way around and so on. And while Egypt’s main airport, Cairo International Airport has been renovated years ago, it has recently become a complete mess.

Let me start by saying that Egypt in general is going through unprecedented circumstances of political instability and unrest. There are a lot of issues going on with the transient government and the political battle between pro and anti Muslim Brotherhood supporters. However, this is in no way an excuse for letting things, critical ones for that matter, go out of control. In a country that has been suffering financial hardship for the past few years, every effort should be exerted to attempt resuscitating the knocked out national economy. With tourism being one of the leading sources of national income, Cairo International Airport represents the tourists’ first stop in Egypt and therefore, their overall experience could be largely affected by their “first impression” of the country.

What got me to start writing about this are my two trips to the airport last week. I was dropping some relatives off at the airport and I was just amazed by how chaotic and disorganized things are at the supposedly international airport. The first thing you notice is the military and police vehicles and tanks guarding the gates, something that is attributed to the current security status and is not really a problem. At the gates of the terminal, it is customary to pay a small fee (5 EGP) to be granted entrance if you are not a traveler. What I found there was a “security” guy in civilian clothes, sitting at the gate fondling with his cell phone and occasionally making calls while visually inspecting anyone attempting to enter. I thought there was a rule that is applied to everyone: buy a ticket, get in – no ticket, stay out. But no! According to this guy’s personal opinion he would let someone inside without asking them for a ticket, and prevent others from entering if they didn’t have one. I even saw him allow a family of about 9 members in with just one ticket. Come on guys, make up your mind! Are tickets mandatory or not??

Inside the terminal is another issue. The hall is flooded with representatives of car rental companies who literally “attack” arriving passengers with verbal bargains, even when the passenger clearly is not interested. I’ve had this happen to me personally, where one of those agents kept stalking me from the moment I got my baggage until I was about to leave the terminal, with our dialogue going like this “Do you need a car?” “No!” – “Why not?” “Someone is picking me up “ – “Just take a look at our prices” “Thanks”…etc until I finally shouted at him to get away from me.

Practically speaking, there is normally around 7-10 agents “hovering” around the arriving passengers freely, without any surveillance from the airport security personnel. On occasion, a security member would tell them to leave, but literally 10 seconds later they repeat their quests to make bookings.

So, for a country that is trying to regain its balance after financial struggles, this doesn’t help tourism at all. In fact, for a tourist, I think it would be a very negative experience and bad impression when they arrive at Cairo International Airport, and might overshadow their whole stay in Egypt and something must be done to restore order in the otherwise chaotic and disorganized main airport in Egypt.

How was your last airport experience? Where was it and what did you like/dislike about it?