EgyptAir: International airline with a history of hijackings

CNN  — 

EgyptAir is no stranger to headline-making incidents.

In the deadliest, the national flag carrier saw one of its jets, a Boeing 737, seized in November 1985 by gunmen said to have links to the Abu Nidal extremist group.

They diverted the plane shortly after takeoff from Athens, landing in Malta, where a raid by Egyptian commandos resulted in the deaths of 50 passengers and six hijackers.

To date, according to the Aviation Safety Network’s safety database, the airline has been the victim of no fewer than eight hijackings, including an incident in March 2016, in which an “unstable” man held passengers and crew of an EgyptAir A320-232 hostage with a fake explosive belt, forcing the plane to divert to Cyprus – apparently over issues involving his ex-wife, a Cypriot.

The others were mostly perpetrated by individuals or small groups acting independently.

In 1999, an EgyptAir pilot flying a Los Angeles to Cairo route crashed the plane deliberately into the Atlantic Ocean, killing all 217 people on board.

EgyptAir, originally named Misr Airwork, was founded in 1932.

Name changes

It later became the first airline in the Middle East and Africa and the world’s seventh carrier at the time to join the International Air Transport Association.

The airline began international flights in 1934, with a service between Cairo and the Palestinian region.

From 1949 to 1957, as it expanded its international operations, the airline shortened its name to Misrair. Beginning in 1957, it was known as United Arab Airlines, finally changing to EgyptAir in 1971.

In 2008, EgyptAir joined the Star Alliance network to become the only member based in North Africa and the Middle East.

The airline operated 81 planes as of 2014, with aircraft ages averaging about 10 years, including the latest generation long-range Boeing 777-300ER, Airbus A330-330, and the B737-800.

Some 7.4 million passengers flew with the airline during its fiscal year of 2013-2014.

CNN’s Elaine Yu contributed to this report.