As soon as I heard a Russian charter plane had crashed on its way back from Sharm-el-Sheikh to St. Petersburg, I started trying to guess the odds.
Because there are two very good possibilities here: either it was a bomb planted by Islamists angry at Russia’s intervention in Syria, or…well, to understand the second possibility, you have to have taken one of these winter charter flights from Moscow to Sharm.
I did. Three times, in fact. When I was living in Moscow in the early 2000s, you could get package deals for about $ 300 that included return airfare, with a week and two meals a day (good meals, too) in one of the very glitzy, mostly empty hotels along the shoreline of Sharm. Those hotels were built in the expectation that wealthy North Europeans would book them to capacity every winter. It didn’t happen, at least not then.
Too many scary things were happening to tourists in Egypt. The cautious Germans, British, and Swedes went to safer places, like Thailand or Crete. Only Russians and Ukrainians would still book winter breaks in Sharm, because Eastern Slavs don’t scare easily. And since most Russians didn’t have the kind of money that Germans and Danes can casually throw away on a week in the sun, prices for these hotels dropped, until they were such a bargain that even expat Muscovites like us abandoned our Anglo caution and paid our $ 300…