Sharm El Sheikh International Airport (Arabic: مطار شرم الشيخ الدولي Maṭār Sharm El Sheikh El Dawli) (IATA: SSH, ICAO: HESH) is an international airport located in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. It is the third-busiest airport in Egypt after Cairo International Airport and Hurghada International Airport. The airport was previously known as Ophira International Airport.
The airport was opened on 14 May 1968 as an Israeli Air Force base. After the signing of the Egypt–Israel peace treaty in 1979 and subsequent Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai Peninsula, it was reopened as a civilian airport.
The largest regular aircraft using the airport was a Transaero Airlines-operated Boeing 747-400. These flights transiting from Moscow ended when Transaero ceased operations in October 2015. As of December 2022, Red Wings Airlines operates the current largest regular aircraft, a Boeing 777-200ER, transiting from Moscow Domodedovo Airport.
In 2008, the Egyptian Airports Holding Company (EAHC) announced plans to build a third new terminal at the airport. In July 2009 the Egyptian Holding Company for Airports and Air Navigation (EHCAAN) signed a contract with Spanish construction designers Pointec for the third terminal. The terminal was planned to double the airport’s capacity from 7.5 to 15 million passengers per year. The project’s primary costs were estimated at $420 million. The design phase was due to be completed by early 2010. International contractors then were invited for an open tender to construct the terminal, which was scheduled to be completely constructed by 2015. By September 2016 construction had not commenced. The airport would be expected to cater to 18 million passengers annually by 2025.
On October 31, 2015, Metrojet Flight 9268, en route from Sharm El Sheikh to St. Petersburg, Russia, crashed in the Sinai Peninsula between Nekhel and Housna, killing all 224 people on board, most of them Russian tourists. The jihadist group ISIL, at war with Russian forces in nearby Syria, quickly claimed responsibility for the crash, which was believed by western governments to be the result of a terrorist bombing. Russian investigators confirmed in mid-November that the flight was bombed. Following these events, many countries ordered all flights to Sharm El Sheikh suspended until further notice.
In November 2015, passenger numbers significantly decreased due to the downing of Metrojet Flight 9268 on 31 October 2015. This led to airlines cancelling flights from the airport and operating rescue flights for stranded passengers. Governments from Russia and European countries such as the United Kingdom banned airlines from operating to the airport, citing safety concerns that were highlighted following the crash. The Government of the United Kingdom, HM Government advised against all travel to and from Sharm El Sheikh.
In January 2018, it was announced that EgyptAir Express would open a base at the airport for its incoming fleet of Airbus A220s. This would increase the amount of destinations served by the airline at the airport with the possibility of operating to cities in Italy, Germany, Morocco and India non-stop.
On 22 October 2019, following a comprehensive overhaul of security procedures, the UK lifted the flight ban on flights between UK airports and Sharm El Sheikh.
On 9 August 2021, Rossiya Airlines operated the first flight between Russia and Sharm El Sheikh for the first time in 5 years since the banning of the flights between the resort and Russia, due to the downing of Metrojet Flight 9268.
On 23 May 2007, the airport’s second terminal, the new Terminal 1, was inaugurated with a capacity for 5 million passengers per year. The two-level, 43,000-square-metre (460,000 sq ft) terminal features 40 check-in counters and is designed to cater to a large number of international and chartered flights. It has two domestic and six international gates, all of which exit to remote stands. The terminal comprises three building components: two circular-shaped halls fused together by a wedge-shaped intermediate space dubbed ‘the boat’. This serves as a passenger transit hub housing passport control, duty-free, and VIP areas as well as cafes/restaurants. The halls, in stark textural contrast to the solid mass of ‘the boat’, feature airy, billowing tent-like roofs inspired by the indigenous Bedouin culture.
Although known as Terminal 2, this is actually the airport’s original terminal building. The building underwent a complete modernisation programme in 2004 and has a passenger handling capacity of 2.5 million passengers per year. Since the inauguration of Terminal 1 in 2007 most airlines have shifted operations to the new building.
In December 2016, Egyptian Airports Company announced plans to extend Terminal 2. EAC plans to expand the terminal and increase its capacity by two million passengers per year, thus taking the total capacity of the airport to 9.5 million. This also includes the construction of a new runway and 40 new airsides.
In November 2019, it was announced part of the expansion of Terminal 2 had been completed increasing the airports annual capacity, from 7 million, to 9 million a year. The plan aims to increase the capacity to 20 million passengers per annum as the number of tourists visiting the resort city is rising, during winter in particular. For now, the number of gates was raised to 12 from 8. The total cost of development works in the airport has reached LE 800 million so far.
Terminal 3 was proposed in 2008 to increase the airport’s passenger handling capacity by 10 million. The airport would be expected to cater to 18 million passengers annually by 2025. The new terminal and runway were planned to be constructed adjacent to the el Salam road. Terminal three and its contact stands would occupy an area of about 183,000m² featuring a departure hall and an arrival hall, serving both international and domestic passengers. The terminal three was to face a new airfield to the north of the existing airport. Its origami shaped roof folds provide shades over the departure area, protect the facades from direct sunlight and provide natural lighting throughout the building. Taxiways and aprons were also to be constructed as part of the project. Other associated infrastructure were to include an electrical or mechanical plant, sheds for security services, a mosque, a car parking area and a wastewater treatment facility. The wastewater from the new building was to be connected to the existing sewer system and would be treated before being conveyed for the purpose of irrigation.