Cameron: UK tourists could be stranded ‘for some time’

Tourists are left stranded in Sharm el-Sheikh. Picture: Getty Images

Tourists are left stranded in Sharm el-Sheikh. Picture: Getty Images

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Tourists from the UK who are stranded in Sharm el-Sheikh are due to start flying back today but are only allowed to take hand luggage on board.

All British flights to and from the Egyptian resort were cancelled indefinitely after Prime Minister David Cameron said an Isis bomb smuggled on to the plane probably downed a Russian jet on Saturday killing 224 people.

We acted because of intelligence we had that gave us the concern that it was more likely than not that it was a terrorist bomb

David Cameron

But more than 20 flights are set to be operated from Sharm to the UK today amid tightened security, including a ban on airlines carrying hold luggage.

Anything that cannot be taken on board under standard hand luggage regulations will be brought back to the UK “by a government agency and will be returned to you by courier”, easyJet told passengers. “We anticipate that to be within the next seven days.”

EasyJet and Thomson Airways announced that they will operate nine flights each to the UK today, including a number of “rescue flights”. Monarch published details of five flights from the Red Sea resort.

However, last night the government insisted that there was no change to the decision to suspend flights in and out of the popular holiday destination.

Mr Cameron warned that it may be “some time” before they are able to fly home following the decision to suspend flights.

The continuing concerns added an edge of tension to the pre-planned visit by Egyptian president Abdel Fatah al-Sisi who yesterday held talks with Mr Cameron where he promised close co-operation in dealing with the crisis but said it was “too early” to talk of a bomb.

The crisis is a major blow for Egypt which welcomes one million British tourists every year, the majority going to Sharm el-Sheikh.

And with people missing out on their holidays and others trapped in Egypt, frustrations boiled over.

Sinead Cowan, a Scot who had her holiday cancelled, posted on Facebook: “Absolute disgrace of a company, no alternative destinations from Scotland for 3 weeks! Can’t refund our money for 2 weeks so we can’t even book with an alternative provider that does have availability??! Staff on the helpline have no idea what they are doing and are so rude!!!”

However, the company she was travelling with, Thomson Holidays, was one of several yesterday to offer refunds and new holidays at a discount.

Glasgow comedian Janey Godley tweeted: “Niece gets married Saturday, Tunisia honeymoon cancelled so they gave her Sharm el-Sheikh instead. Now that’s cancelled. Poor wee lass.”

Meanwhile Russian president Vladimir Putin has suggested that Britain jumped the gun in grounding flights to and from the Egyptian resort.

In a ten-minute phone conversation with Mr Cameron, the Russian president said that all countries should await the outcome of a Russian-Egyptian investigation into the tragedy before coming to conclusions about its causes.

But the Prime Minister insisted that his response to the crash would be driven by the need to protect British citizens.

Downing Street played down suggestions of a row, insisting that the exchange was “cordial” and that Mr Putin thanked the Prime Minister for calling him personally to explain the rationale behind the UK’s move.

Mr Cameron’s official spokeswoman said that the PM reiterated his condolences for the 224 victims on board the Metrojet Airbus 321, the vast majority of whom were Russian.

“The Prime Minister and the president agreed that we face a common threat from terrorism,” said the spokeswoman.

“The Prime Minister was very clear that he will be driven by what is right for the safety of British citizens and that we were right to take the action that we did based on the information that we had in front of us and our assessment of the situation.”

Earlier, following a meeting of the government’s emergency Cobra committee, Mr Cameron said he had “huge sympathy” for those whose holidays had been disrupted and that he hoped their return could begin “as soon as possible” but warned it could be “some time”.

He added: “The reason we acted before that is because of intelligence and information we had that gave us the concern that it was more likely than not that it was a terrorist bomb.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also chaired an emergency meeting to discuss the plight of hundreds of Scots who are stranded in Sharm el-Sheikh.

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