Stranded travellers faced chaos at Egypt’s Shar, el-Sheikh airport this morning as one of the main carriers due to repatriate tourists to the UK said that the majority of its flights had been suspended by the Egyptian authorities.
Budget airline EasyJet said only two of its eight planned rescue flights from Egyptian resort Sharm el-Sheikh would depart today following instruction from officials.
All flights to and from Sharm el-Sheikh were grounded by the British Government on Wednesday amid fears that a bomb may have been brought onto a Russian airliner which crashed last Saturday, killintg all 224 people on board.
Flights operated by other carriers including British Airways and Monarch were due to depart as scheduled, including a Thomson Holidays departure to Glasgow.
Egyptian officials claimed that delays at Sharm el-Sheikh airport were logistical, and a matter of “organisational procedure.”
Shortly after 11am yesterday, easyJet confirmed that its first rescue flight to London Gatwick had departed from Sharm El Sheikh with 180 passengers on board. The airline said it expected to repatriate 339 passengers yesterday.
“The situation for UK flights in Sharm el Sheikh remains fluid. We are being advised that the Egyptian authorities will allow a restricted number of UK flights from Sharm el Sheikh today, two of which are easyJet flights,” it said.
Scottish passengers flying home with Thomson Holidays were due to land in Glasgow at 10.15pm last night as per their original scheduled flight.
A spokeswoman for the company, which is owned by Tui, said: “All of our flights scheduled for today are going ahead as planned.”
British tourists who had waited for hours at the Sharm el-Sheikh airport yesterday morning heckled Ambassador John Casson, who appeared at the airport to provide information to passengers.
One irate tourist at the Red Sea resort shouted: “When are we going home?”
Casson said British authorities would “continue to work until we have everybody home”.
He added: “There are challenging, difficult issues to work through, this is a busy airport and we need to make sure people leave in a way that is safe.”
Passengers who managed to leave Sharm el-Sheikh yesterday were told they could only take a few essential items - such as keys, credit cards and medicines - with them. Their luggage, including babies’s buggies and wheelchairs, was set to be brought back to the UK separately within the next ten days.
Evelyn Weir, 50, from Glasgow, who was on holiday with friends, said travelling without their main bags would be a ‘huge inconvenience’.
She added: ‘I don’t see why they can’t just scan all the bags beforehand? I don’t think people will be happy about this.’
Passengers booked to take off on holidays from the UK were also angry, accusing travel companies of chaos.
People who had booked flights through easyJet claimed that the company’s flight tracker had not been updated and was still showing flights to Sharm el-Sheikh over the next few days which is said were scheduled to depart.
Passenger Sarah Dillon from Manchester tweeted: “If you have suspended all flights how come the tracker says my flight tomorrow is on time?!”
Meanwhile, the Spanish government has warned its citizens against unecessary travel to any part of Egypt - especially Sharm el-Sheikh - while the Belgian Foreign Ministry website recommended “heightened vigilance” for anyone traveling in Egypt.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi said yesterday that British security experts visited Sharm el-Sheikh airport to check procedures there 10 months ago.