The Mystery Of EgyptAir’s Inflight Security Officers…

The Mystery Of EgyptAir’s Inflight Security Officers…

42

In a previous installment, I shared my experience flying within EgyptAir. I’ve flown with EgyptAir many times over the years, and in this post I wanted to discuss something I’ve long been curious about with the airline.

EgyptAir’s abundant security officers

In the United States we have federal air marshals, who are undercover, and are on a tiny percentage of commercial flights. EgyptAir takes this concept to the next level. The airline has security officers, as they’re called, and they’re extremely common. I’ve seen them on a majority of my EgyptAir flights over the years.

I’m not trying to bust anyone’s cover here, as EgyptAir’s security officers aren’t undercover, but instead they wear uniforms and have badges. Just to use the Munich to Cairo flight that I took on EgyptAir as an example, there were four security officers onboard, with two of them seated immediately behind me in business class, one seated at the front of business class, and one seated in economy.

They didn’t have any sort of obvious duties during the flight. They chatted with one another, they ate meals, they took naps, they farted constantly (which I wish I didn’t know, but…). They didn’t engage with passengers in any way.

They were also totally chill. For example, I take a ton of pictures when I fly, and they didn’t seem at all concerned by that, which I appreciated.

EgyptAir has lots of inflight security officers

Does anyone understand the logic?

EgyptAir’s approach to onboard security officers just puzzles the heck out of me. EgyptAir isn’t the only airline with a version of air marshals, but I find the execution to be the strangest, as the airline seems to have the most, and they seem to do the least.

For example, years ago I remember flying with Royal Jordanian from Cairo to Amman, and there was a security officer onboard who patted down each passenger as they boarded, and searched their bags. Okay, I can kind of see merit to that, as it adds a layer of protection. But in the case of EgyptAir, I’ve never seen the security officers do anything.

All kinds of questions come to mind (which no one has to answer, but curiosity is getting the best of me):

  • What has to happen for them to jump into action? Would they get involved with a basic inflight disturbance, or does it have to be more serious than that?
  • If they are the “last line of defense,” wouldn’t it make more sense for these security officers to be undercover, rather than in uniform? Are they armed?
  • Are these highly trained professionals with background in intelligence, are they hired with no experience, or somewhere in the middle?
  • I get that labor is pretty cheap in Egypt, but who is funding this, and is this some government requirement, an airline choice, or I suppose that’s all the same, really?
  • Wouldn’t it make more sense for these security officers to be assigned routes that are ostensibly higher risk than Munich to Cairo in terms of what could happen in the cabin?
  • Given EgyptAir’s safety record, wouldn’t it make more sense to have at least one of these security officers in the cockpit, as EgyptAir’s third most recent crash was a pilot suicide, and most recent crash was due to a pilot smoking in the cockpit (and that flight had three security officers onboard)?
The security officers flew to Munich and back

Bottom line

You’ll find security officers on many EgyptAir flights. They’re in uniform, there are typically multiple of them, and they just chill out the entire time. I’ve long been confused by what purpose they serve, as they’re different than the air marshals you’ll find in most other countries. They’re not undercover and don’t blend in, and at the same time, they don’t actually perform any duties.

Has anyone else noticed EgyptAir’s security officers, and/or have any insights?

Conversations (42)
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  1. M. Kamal Guest

    Well, first of all, and as you may be able to think. Egypt air wouldn't do that for no reason, and they cist a lot by your standards by the way, and just seeing a writer doesn't understand what they are doing and how, this means that their planned job is going well.
    Second, we don't have any pilots committed suiside, back in 1999 the aircraft was brought down having army officers coming back...

    Well, first of all, and as you may be able to think. Egypt air wouldn't do that for no reason, and they cist a lot by your standards by the way, and just seeing a writer doesn't understand what they are doing and how, this means that their planned job is going well.
    Second, we don't have any pilots committed suiside, back in 1999 the aircraft was brought down having army officers coming back home after receiving training in the US.

    And smoking in the cockpit never heard of.

    And these are the two accidents Egypt air was involved in.

    Regards....

  2. Mohamed Tarek Guest

    As a frequent EgyptAir traveler, I could relate to most of your article. However, the part about the suicide is completely incorrect. That was a rumor that was quickly refuted. Also, the suggestion to have a security officer in the cockpit is not logical.

    While flying with EgyptAir, I may have a few complaints, but security or the competency of its pilots are never an issue.

  3. Bah Guest

    It is just a showy action for tourists to show Egypt Air does its best and is 100% safe.
    On the other hand, some people in high places need to give job favors to some.

  4. Akram M. Sabour Guest

    I think there are many mistakes in your article.
    First of all, the two personnel you mentioned in the business cabin are not security officers, they are actually a maintenance engineer and a technician. They fly on certain routes to do the ALC and sign the technical logbook in some out stations.

    Secondly, what recent accident are you talking about which you claim it was due to suicide?!! Where do you get your...

    I think there are many mistakes in your article.
    First of all, the two personnel you mentioned in the business cabin are not security officers, they are actually a maintenance engineer and a technician. They fly on certain routes to do the ALC and sign the technical logbook in some out stations.

    Secondly, what recent accident are you talking about which you claim it was due to suicide?!! Where do you get your info really?
    EgyptAir never had a suicide accident. And please don’t tell me based on TV shows. You won’t find any official document with such claims.
    And regarding smoking in the cockpit, it was only a speculation, This accident’s final report said it was due to fire in the E&E with some traces of explosive materials.

    But finally, I do agree regarding the other two security officers, which is may be too much but they do have job to be done only upon orders by the cockpit crew during flight.

  5. Andy Guest

    The mindset in Egypt now is "the uniform rules" and this is exactly what you witnessed. With no function whatsoever, those people get a free ride in business class to chill on the flight and to go chill in Munich and go back to Egypt farting all the way. Despite the Financial devastation that EgyptAir faces every year. This is the reality Egypt sadly lives in now.

  6. Moataz Khalil Guest

    I would have to agree with your point, however, few point to clarify:

    1. The first group of professional Air Marshals staff started in the early 80’s, when intelligence information was available with the possibility of a plane ✈️ HiJack.
    2. The company management went to hire a mix of civilian contractors by company to fulfill the duties (a mix of both).
    3. Few years after the intelligence proven correct and an airliner...

    I would have to agree with your point, however, few point to clarify:

    1. The first group of professional Air Marshals staff started in the early 80’s, when intelligence information was available with the possibility of a plane ✈️ HiJack.
    2. The company management went to hire a mix of civilian contractors by company to fulfill the duties (a mix of both).
    3. Few years after the intelligence proven correct and an airliner was hijacked, in which the well trained acted while the rest choked out. Disaster at the end of the scene .
    4. Now, we got a team that’s paid for no reason. Simple answer, no one can make a proper decision nor they can hire professional people. A zoo of mischief mess.
    5. I have to disagree totally with the suicide call. But that’s not the point to raise.

  7. Cris Guest

    Egypt Air is one of the best airline companies,providing travelers with quality services. The presence of security officers is a sign of professionalism because the company tries to prevent any unexpected acts, protecting passengers and the flight itself. The only thing they must still consider is the high rate of the tickets and the big difference in price between Economy and Business. Despite the price matter, I always enjoy traveling with Egypt Air.

  8. Phil_S New Member

    "they farted constantly (which I wish I didn’t know, but…)."

    why on earth would you want to share this information with us?

    1. Sam Guest

      This was hilarious. Honestly the author made my day.

  9. Sherif Guest

    Well well well, angry birds ( ladies and gentlemen )..The security is a philosophy..that philosophy has many schools...Old school and new school.. Examples :
    New school: those ones you mentioned in states or Jordan they only interfere when the situation needs , they just stay and watch how the cabin crew will deal with the normal kinds of problems like angry passengers or drunk ones..they keep watching untill the situation reached a real dangerous...

    Well well well, angry birds ( ladies and gentlemen )..The security is a philosophy..that philosophy has many schools...Old school and new school.. Examples :
    New school: those ones you mentioned in states or Jordan they only interfere when the situation needs , they just stay and watch how the cabin crew will deal with the normal kinds of problems like angry passengers or drunk ones..they keep watching untill the situation reached a real dangerous level and then they interfere.
    Old school: which i personally prefer is to be clear and easy to be identified and your uniform and badge declares that you are here as security protector..like policemen in the streets..in this school if you ( passenger i meant) think or intend to do something unruly then you will think hundred times before start your escalation...for me this is the best school because it denies the act from thinking stage ...a thief saw policeman in front of the bank ..do tou think he will even try to approach the ATM?..this is the philosophy.
    By the way , i am an airliner but not security staff

  10. Bojan Guest

    My first flight on Egypt Air was few days ago from CAI to LXR. Only on the the way back I realized who this person in uniform was. First I thought he was a purser because as we were about to board the plane he was standing outside at the bottom of the stairs and checking the bording passes. He was only wearing a regular white shirt and black pants. After the doors were closed...

    My first flight on Egypt Air was few days ago from CAI to LXR. Only on the the way back I realized who this person in uniform was. First I thought he was a purser because as we were about to board the plane he was standing outside at the bottom of the stairs and checking the bording passes. He was only wearing a regular white shirt and black pants. After the doors were closed he sat down in the row in front of me. So except checking the boarding passes, as you pointed out, he did nothing. I haven't seen any other security officers except him. Maybe they just have one on domestic flights.

  11. Matt Guest

    We were on Royal Jordanian DMM-AMM last year and saw a serious dispute between a Saudi family and a Jordanian family. The FAs were staying out of it but there were at least 3 others, one woman, who came to calm the dispute. Lots of yelling, clothing pulling, and nearly punches thrown but it settled down. The 3 must have been security people. The woman was the only one to address is but she did...

    We were on Royal Jordanian DMM-AMM last year and saw a serious dispute between a Saudi family and a Jordanian family. The FAs were staying out of it but there were at least 3 others, one woman, who came to calm the dispute. Lots of yelling, clothing pulling, and nearly punches thrown but it settled down. The 3 must have been security people. The woman was the only one to address is but she did so in very clear English. We had a nurse with us that aided one of the fighters, an older woman who had fainted, the security woman allowed the nurse to help but told the rest of us to look away. Very tense situation but the flight continued. We didn't see the end result after landing, several policemen were waiting outside the plane but we got out of there quickly. I'm glad there were so many security people on this flight

  12. Ahmed Guest

    At munich flights only 2 officers the 2 behind you was the engineer and technician

  13. Abdo Guest

    It is not only on aircraft rather, it is all over the places you visit in Egypt !. Look at the departure area in the airport, how many security check-point you need to pass ? they are 3 in cairo while in Sharm are 4 !!! Traffic lights in downtown had at least two traffic officers and what they do? just to signal the drivers to move when the light turn green ! and so on in different places. Smile you are in Egypt.

  14. Billy Boboroo Guest

    Egypt Air in-flight security is a patronage job for connected persons. I used to frequently fly Saudia Air on long haul international flights. SV was the same, security was in uniform, all sat in Business Class and slept most of the flight except for chatting with each other and dining. However, they did search carry-on bags before boarding.

  15. Iamhere Guest

    There are other airlines and other countries that have security officers who are not undercover too. I think you should consider the situation more broadly. It also does not matter about the route. There will be officers on every flight.

  16. glenn t Diamond

    Those guys have those plum ' jobs' (by Egyptian standards) due to family or other connections.
    Very commendable that they weren't smoking and drinking really.
    I think they would be entirely useless in any situation which arose, and a danger to themselves and passengers if guns were drawn. I'm sure that they are in fact armed; all part of the machismo thing they project.

  17. Kelley Guest

    Having just gotten back from spending a month in Egypt, I observed that many jobs in Egypt are "make work" type things. Your family has connections, so you get a job. We noticed that a lot in tourist facing situations (and not tourist facing). The tourist police, soldiers, doctors, judges... It's all about who you know in Egypt. Having said that, we had a fantastic time, the people were wonderful and friendly, the food was...

    Having just gotten back from spending a month in Egypt, I observed that many jobs in Egypt are "make work" type things. Your family has connections, so you get a job. We noticed that a lot in tourist facing situations (and not tourist facing). The tourist police, soldiers, doctors, judges... It's all about who you know in Egypt. Having said that, we had a fantastic time, the people were wonderful and friendly, the food was great, it was fairly inexpensive and the history is the most amazing in the world. Oh, and we were there while all this "stuff" is going on in Gaza, and we felt very safe. Safer than at home, in fact. Highly recommend a visit there.

    1. Samo Guest

      Egypt doesn't allow pretty much any entry from Gaza so there's no "spillover".

    2. Matt Guest

      After our Egypt visit last year I can safely say we have no need to go back. The food was good, the sights were amazing, but one time is enough. If I ever go back it'll be too see the new museum in Cairo. But I think I'll spend time seeing other places now. I would just certainly go back to Jordan though, Amman was amazing

  18. Ahmad Aga Guest

    As someone who knows one of them from a while ago..they are actually well-trained ex-military special forces and are trained on close-quarters combat and do not intervene unless the flight is actually "under threat". They are in different parts as they cover various parts of the plane while seeing each other. They are actually told to be respectful to passengers unless something happens. Cairo airport specifically has an Extra search level at EACH gate before...

    As someone who knows one of them from a while ago..they are actually well-trained ex-military special forces and are trained on close-quarters combat and do not intervene unless the flight is actually "under threat". They are in different parts as they cover various parts of the plane while seeing each other. They are actually told to be respectful to passengers unless something happens. Cairo airport specifically has an Extra search level at EACH gate before you enter the plane where all handluggage goes through scanning machines and people get searched.

  19. Brian G. Gold

    Sounds like a jobs program. Fly the world, and relax.

  20. FlewAway Guest

    I flew on Cayman Airways a few years ago from GCM to Havana and there was an armed security officer on board.

  21. Errol Guest

    It maybe that they do some work during the turnaround in Munich or wherever. For instance they might guard the aircraft and control access to the holds and cabin, they might profile passengers at check-in, they might perform secondary screening of passengers and cabin baggage.

    I have come across airlines that bring their own security keys when flying to airports that are considered high threat to do the above.

    It is a bit strange to...

    It maybe that they do some work during the turnaround in Munich or wherever. For instance they might guard the aircraft and control access to the holds and cabin, they might profile passengers at check-in, they might perform secondary screening of passengers and cabin baggage.

    I have come across airlines that bring their own security keys when flying to airports that are considered high threat to do the above.

    It is a bit strange to fly your own security to a German airport when there would no doubt be several competent security companies at the airport and it would likely be cheaper just to contract them.

    1. Samo Guest

      El Al uses their own staff for the kind of ground jobs you describe (guarding the plane during layover, profiling of pax, additional search), but they are employing locals at most airports and generally don't fly them around. Only when they fly from an outstation which doesn't have a regular El Al service (or its frequency is too low to justify hiring and training local staff), they use staff from another nearby station.

  22. lars Guest

    Reminds me of a time when some locals and I were parking in a short term lot at Cairo International. At the entry gate to the lot, there was an employee. His job, apparently, was to push the button on the parking ticket machine, take said ticket, and hand it to the driver. That’s it. There was absolutely zero reason for this job to exist as any driver of any car could just as easily...

    Reminds me of a time when some locals and I were parking in a short term lot at Cairo International. At the entry gate to the lot, there was an employee. His job, apparently, was to push the button on the parking ticket machine, take said ticket, and hand it to the driver. That’s it. There was absolutely zero reason for this job to exist as any driver of any car could just as easily pushed the button, taken their ticket, and been on their way (as happens in the rest of the world).

    So I asked my local friend what was up with this. His response was “With more people than jobs, sometimes the government makes jobs.”

  23. Tony Guest

    Why would you assume everything if life has a logic to it? Especially one you should understand?

  24. SadStateofOurNation Guest

    "They farted constantly".

    Are you sure you didn't confuse with being at trump's trial?

    Hopefully they didn't soil their diapers like VonShitzhispants.

    1. Sherif Tantawy Guest

      Why would you even bother.. as long as they do not annoying passengers...
      Why is behind your Questions?
      Did you count how many Furt they did?
      Your language of writing is so dirty..

      It is Egypt Air business to hire whatever who they want to hire

      Egypt Air is government company and everyone knows they are over stuff.. still it is not your business neither the website manager who allows you to write such thing like this..
      In other way
      Mind your business

    2. Clayton Guest

      Wow you trigger easily don't you.

      In the free world anyone is free to ask anything about anything without the risk of threat to their life, career or home. Not every question gets an answer for a myriad of reasons but anyone can ask anything of anything.

      If that offends you for some reason that's your issue, nobody elses, and you have no inalienable right to be offended and/or expect, demand or limit others...

      Wow you trigger easily don't you.

      In the free world anyone is free to ask anything about anything without the risk of threat to their life, career or home. Not every question gets an answer for a myriad of reasons but anyone can ask anything of anything.

      If that offends you for some reason that's your issue, nobody elses, and you have no inalienable right to be offended and/or expect, demand or limit others behaviours simply to please your sensibilities.

      I will hazard a guess, but am happy to be corrected, that your repeated references to the writing being "dirty" is because, for whatever reason and despite you being an adult, the mention of people passing wind excessively ( an observable fact in this case) you feel so aggrieved by it's inclusion in the article that you then feel entitled to attack somebody and call for editorial action to be taken to 'correct' this most henious of 'crimes' and offensive writing the like never witnessed for all of history up until this point.

      On a slight upside. If talk of excessive farting is the tipping point for you then I'd hope or presume you live a pretty happy life with little to care about. Based on the fact that this was your trigger point. Good on you eh.

      FYI. Rather than demanding others censure themselves to apease your sensibilities and the editorial staff take steps to ensure fart are never again mentioned. There exists an easier solution and one that you hold the key to empower yourself with immediately. Simply don't read the articles or visit the site. That way you'll be safe from such 'appalling' behaviour. You're free to come and free to leave at your own recognizance. Your presence isn't mandatory. Just as your insults, demands and calls for the world to comply with your personal views and dislikes.

      Regarding the questions though. Some is a bit 'open secrets'. Some is simply policy decisions and some is restricted knowledge for the sake of security and remaining tasks/role effective.

      Uniform will be an operational / policy decision and both overt and covert approaches have the own benefits and downsides.

      'Stand up' criteria can be a little fluid. The nation state that deploys them will define such in line with their domestic legal framework and protections of it's citizens. That can be subject to a degree of change in line with established, over arching legal covenants / treaties.

      Many countries do not allow armed personnel within their borders so flying from country X to Y may be fine but would be illegal if flying between X and Q. Said officers, agents would be liable to arrest and prosecution if found bringing a firearm into a country without authority to do so. It's somewhat grey in practice and often happens when it shouldn't and has been like that for years.
      Such people are generally trained, and remain training throughout their career in martial arts, unarmed combat and the likes and that is their approach. If nothing else an accidental discharge at 40k feet is generally something to avoid. You would hope or expect them to be adequately proficient in their role to be able to disarm, and secure any armed assailants. There's also a lot more things that can be used as a weapon or, probably more important, as a tool to disarm and incapacitate a threat.

      SOP is that they are there for quite narrowly defined events so an aggy pax is the crews responsibility and any diversions remain the captains jurisdiction until such time a threshold is passed where the agent(s) could require the caption to comply with a request. In countries/. airlines where this the case the captains will have been taught what, when and how that point is reached although they retain the right to ask for the request to be altered for XYZ reason

      Not sure I can shed light on the flatuence. Poor diet maybe. But perhaps leave that there lest we set off super sensitive reader again

    3. Mangiafica Guest

      "If nothing else an accidental discharge at 40k feet is generally something to avoid."

      Hey you heard the OP, no fart jokes

    4. Arron Guest

      A few years ago I flew LHR-CAI in business class and remember coming back from the w/c and seeing a gentleman fast asleep in his cradle seat and his suit jacket was open and I could clearly see a gun in a holster so pretty obviously a security guard....effective security??

  25. PugMama Guest

    Earlier this year I participate in a small group tour to Egypt. We spent time in Cairo in addition to the usual archeological/tourist areas, including a 5 day cruise down the Nile on a small dahabeya. While we were in Cairo we were given a security guard, who we were told was required by the government to be with us at all times while on the bus or when we were at the tourist sites....

    Earlier this year I participate in a small group tour to Egypt. We spent time in Cairo in addition to the usual archeological/tourist areas, including a 5 day cruise down the Nile on a small dahabeya. While we were in Cairo we were given a security guard, who we were told was required by the government to be with us at all times while on the bus or when we were at the tourist sites. Our trip experience leader was Egyptian, though he left the country years ago to live in the UK. He said that it was all for show. The government wants to make tourists feel safe so they mandate that an armed guard accompany all tour groups in and around Cairo (Giza plateau, etc.). Our experience leader told us that they aren't even allowed to engage should any incidents occur, despite carrying a very conspicuous machine gun. Should something happen they have to call headquarters first to get permission to engage. Seems like that would defeat the purpose of having protection doesn't it? Pretty sure terrorists aren't going to pause while someone makes a phone call to see if they can shoot back. We got to know our guard a little bit and he told us that he was a police officer and providing security for tour groups was one of his regular assignments. This phenomenon did not occur anywhere else in the country, only in Cairo. I'm wondering if maybe the presence of security on flights out of Cairo is related to the same thing. A show put on by the government to help tourists feel safe with no real authority to actually do anything.

    1. Kelley P Diamond

      I was in Egypt for a month in February/March - our small group (the first two weeks) also had an armed tourist policeman. Our guide did say that he was there for our safety, but he also said that he was armed for a reason. He told us if anything started we should take cover and let the man do his job. So, who knows which is true. But the tourist policemen that accompanied us on legs of our trips were very serious about their jobs. I felt safe...

  26. 767-223 Guest

    The avgeek in me would love a job like this!

  27. MaroonOtter Member

    I think it’s also common practice on mainland China carriers. Usually in a bulkhead economy seat, there is a security officer in all-black uniform. From what I’ve read, they’re airline employees rather than police of any kind, and they don’t have any customer facing duties besides blocking the aisle to make sure premium cabin passengers get off the plane first. That last point is pure speculation based on my observation.

  28. Mark Guest

    Their goal is to deter any adverse behavior onboard and so having uniforms and badges helps without them needing to do anything. I’d imagine there would be fewer fights/outbursts on flights in the US on ULCC’s if they had 4 police officers onboard (or maybe wishful thinking).

    Countries like Egypt rely so much on tourism to power their economy that they can’t afford being in the news for unruly passengers trying to barge into the flight deck or fighting onboard.

    1. UncleRonnie Guest

      Dry airline. I doubt there’s ever much trouble on these flights.

  29. James K. Guest

    I would assume subsidized jobs given as political patronage. Reminds me of a museum I went to in Thessaloniki which had a guard in every single room.

    1. Albert Guest

      Agree about jobs probably for political patronage.

      But I'd say that having a guard in each room is pretty standard for most major museums?
      Perhaps not in the USA because minimising costs?

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lars Guest

Reminds me of a time when some locals and I were parking in a short term lot at Cairo International. At the entry gate to the lot, there was an employee. His job, apparently, was to push the button on the parking ticket machine, take said ticket, and hand it to the driver. That’s it. There was absolutely zero reason for this job to exist as any driver of any car could just as easily pushed the button, taken their ticket, and been on their way (as happens in the rest of the world). So I asked my local friend what was up with this. His response was “With more people than jobs, sometimes the government makes jobs.”

4
Albert Guest

Agree about jobs probably for political patronage. But I'd say that having a guard in each room is pretty standard for most major museums? Perhaps not in the USA because minimising costs?

3
James K. Guest

I would assume subsidized jobs given as political patronage. Reminds me of a museum I went to in Thessaloniki which had a guard in every single room.

3
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