Security at Sharm el-Sheikh 'Patchy at Best': Aviation Security Analyst

The director of Sharm el-Sheikh airport, from which the tragic Russian airliner departed before crashing over the Sinai peninsula on Saturday, has been replaced amid growing certainty in the U.S. and U.K. that the crash was caused by a bomb on board.

Adel Mahgoub, head of the state company that runs Egypt's civilian airports, said that the former head of the airport, Abdel-Wahab Ali, would be replaced. Mahgoub said that pilot Emad el-Balasi had been "promoted" to become Mahgoub's assistant, ITV reports.

Mahgoub denied the staff change was linked to the mounting scrutiny around the level of airport security at Sharm el-Sheikh, but the British government is among those increasingly convinced that a bomb had been smuggled on to the plane.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said a bomb was "more likely than not," to have caused the crash and announced that all flights to Sharm el-Sheikh from the U.K. would be suspended. British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said it was a "significant possibility" that Islamic State (ISIS) was responsible.

Speaking to Newsweek Chris Yates, founder and director of aviation security consulting firm Yates Consulting, says the level of security measures at Sharm el-Sheikh airport are "patchy at best."

Yates says: "I've flown in through the airport multiple times in the past. The last time would have been around four years ago. There have been times when I've passed through airport when everything functions correctly, and there are times where things such as luggage checks have not been as precise as one would expect."

He adds that security issues are not confined to Sharm el-Sheikh.

"I think the problem is more widespread quite frankly," Yates says. "There are airports in this world where everything is checked and double checked, however there are certain jurisdictions around the world where this is simply not the case and therein lies the problem."

Yates warned that it is still early to arrive at conclusions as to why the plane went down and only by analyzing the contents of the black box will it be ascertained whether or not a bomb caused the crash.

Passengers who have previously flown from Sharm el-Sheikh told Sky News that during their recent trips through the airport they had found airport security lax and hand luggage checks or lack thereof were a particular "glaring security risk."

One passenger said she "was shocked by the lack of airport security" adding that "the person manning the scanning machine was playing Candy Crush on his phone."

Another passenger who flew to the airport remembered seeing the security official at the baggage scanner "was too busy sleeping as opposed to looking at the bags going through the scanner."

He added: "Since then we have decided never to return. Not a chance Sharm airport is to up to global standards."

Another regular flyer to Sharm el-Sheikh said she had tried testing the baggage scans after she forgot a large drinks bottle in her hand luggage one year, which was not spotted. "Liquids in the hand luggage were not even commented on," she said.

Egypt's minister of civil aviation Hossam Kamal issued a statement on Thursday denying that the country's airports have a problem with security. Foreign Secretary Hammond told the BBC on Thursday that the UK was working with Egyptian authorities to put in place "short-term emergency measures" to tighten security and fly Britons home from the airport.