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Egypt allows Russian Il-86 airliner flights until September

CAIRO, March 29 (RIA Novosti) - Egypt has extended until September 15 permission for Russian Il-86 airliner flights, which it plans to ban over non-compliance with international noise requirements, the country's civil aviation body said Thursday.

"Russian airliners will be allowed to fly to Hurghada and Sharm El-Sheikh airports until the end of the summer tourist season - September 15, 2007," a civil aviation official said.

Egypt said it was the last time the ban would be postponed. Russian carriers were first notified about the ban on 350-passenger mid-range Il-86s in 2002, but the Arab nation has postponed it every year since.

However, the Russian Transportation Ministry said it had not received any official notification from Egypt confirming the extension.

"As yet we have not received any documentation," a ministry spokesman said.

Experts have warned the ban on the planes could cut tourist flow from Russia to Egypt, which has steadily grown in recent years. In 2006, over 902,000 Russian tourists visited the country, famous for its pyramids and sea resorts, or by 29.8% more than in 2005.

Tourist flows to Cyprus and Bulgaria declined by 25% and ticket prices rose 15% when the new European Union members banned Il-86 flights.

Il-86s, whose production began in 1980, are the most popular plane for charter flights to Turkey and Egypt. Forty-six aircraft are currently in use in Russia, according to official statistics, with Russia's Antlant-Soyuz, Sibir and KrasAir carriers having the largest Il-86 fleets.

Some experts fear other carriers with foreign-made jetliners in their fleets could not cope with additional tourist flows.

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