An EgyptAir Plane Was Hijacked In March

by Alexi McCammond

When news broke of EgyptAir flight MS804 disappearing from the radar on May 18, it brought up old news of the airline's troubled past: An EgyptAir plane was hijacked just two months before flight MS804 went missing.

This incident, which happened on March 29, involved EgyptAir flight MS181. The plane had taken off from Alexandria — a port city on the Mediterranean Sea in Egypt — and was headed for Cairo. Similarly, the MS804 plane was traveling to Cairo. Egyptian authorities said that there were 55 passengers on board flight MS181 when it was seized by the hijacker, according to The Guardian. The hijacker had been identified by Cyprus' Ministry of Foreign Affairs as a man named Seif Elden Mustafa.

Apparently, when Mustafa hijacked the EgyptAir plane, he demanded it take a detour to Larnaca, Cyprus, rather than its original destination in Cairo. Luckily, when the plane landed at the new destination, Mustafa was eventually arrested at the Larnaca Airport, according to The Guardian. After the hijacking, Egyptian authorities reported that Mustafa had reportedly threatened the plane passengers that he was going to detonate a bomb from an explosive belt.

Mustafa held the crew members and passengers for six hours during this hijacking.

Remembering this terrifying incident for EgyptAir and its passengers on March 29 becomes slightly more sobering in light of the May 18 disappearance of EgyptAir flight MS804. It has been less than two months since Mustafa hijacked flight MS181 and held its passengers hostage; his motive wasn't even clear at the time of the incident, as reports showed he was either psychologically unstable or looking to seek revenge on an estranged wife. Additionally, Mustafa was said to have also recently demanded the release of certain prisoners in Egypt, but all of these theories about motive came from reports and the Cyprus president, according to The Guardian.

Among the 55 passengers on the hijacked EgyptAir flight MS181 in March, there were eight Americans, four Britons, four Dutch people, and one Italian; the remaining passengers were Egyptian.

In both the hijacking situation and the flight MS804 plane crash, EgyptAir had less-than ideal communication via social media. In the former, the airline released a concise tweet (above) that was informative, but rather terse. In the case of the reported plane crash of EgyptAir plane A320, the airline maintained vague responses on Twitter as to what was really going on. In fact, they denied the claims that the plane had crashed (which Egyptian aviation officials confirmed to the Associated Press) for so long, that Airbus, the maker of the plane, finally released a statement on Facebook and Twitter expressing their condolences for those involved in the plane crash.

It's honestly a little shocking that these two horrific incidents could happen to the same airline in less than two months. The hijacking drew criticism of Egyptian airports' security and authority; the disappearance and eventual reported crashing of EgyptAir flight MS804 on May 18 will undoubtedly hurt both Egyptian tourism and the credibility of Egyptian airlines.