7 Nov 2015

Rescue flights forced to turn back from Egypt

Thousands of Britons remain stranded in Sharm el-Sheikh after rescue flights were forced to turn back in mid-air.

British tourists in Sharm-el Sheikh airport

Approximately 1,400 holidaymakers were brought back to the UK yesterday but another 2,600 are still stuck at the Red Sea resort.

21 of the 29 services scheduled were cancelled by the Egyptian authorities and some planes were forced to divert mid-flight.

The UK government suspended air links on Wednesday after an Airbus 321 operated by Russian airline Metrojet crashed on Saturday, killing all 224 people on board. Militants of the Islamic State (IS) terror group in the Sinai Peninsula have claimed that they downed the plane.

French television channel France 2 reported that the black boxes from the plane “distinctly show the sound of an explosion during the flight”.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said information obtained by UK officials indicated there was a “high probability” that the aircraft was brought down by an explosive device, though he said he was still waiting for final confirmation.

There have been reports that security agencies received intelligence based on intercepted communications between Sinai militants which pointed towards a bomb on the plane. They apparently suspect an explosive device could have been placed inside or on top of luggage by someone with access to the hold just before take-off.

Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, speaking hours before authorities were due to make an announcement about their investigations so far, said it would be wrong to speculate on the cause until findings were delivered.

He also said Cairo was not ruling out any possibility, and suggested countries now flagging the likelihood that militants were behind the crash should have heeded Egypt’s repeated calls for coordination to combat militants.

“The spread of terrorism, which we have for a long time called on our partners to tackle more seriously, did not get through to many of the parties which are now exposed and which are currently working for the interests of their citizens to face this danger,” Shoukry told a news conference.

He went on to express his frustration that foreign intelligence about the cause of the crash had not been passed on to Cairo.

“The information we have heard about has not been sharedwith Egyptian security agencies in detail,” he said. “We were expecting that the technical information would be provided to us.”


Airlines are planning to reschedule rescue flights to bring the remaining Brits home today.

EasyJet said it plans to bring another 445 passengers back, with two planes due to fly into Luton tonight.

British Airways has a flight scheduled to land at Gatwick and Monarch expects to operate two services to Manchester Airport.

Thomson Airways said that “due to a last-minute change in Egyptian government restrictions” it could only operate two of its four planned services yesterday.

A spokesman added that two planes are currently on standby in Egypt waiting for slots.

The first passengers arrived back in the UK to Gatwick at 4.25pm yesterday followed by seven other aircraft throughout the day.

British passenger Maxine Hazelwood said as she arrived at Gatwick yesterday: “I’m so relieved it’s over. It’s just been an absolute nightmare.”

Customers were not able to take any hold luggage with them on any of the flights. It will be brought back to the UK separately for security purposes.

This caused further problems as Egypt’s civil aviation minister said the volume of luggage being left behind by British passengers has disrupted operations at the airport.

In a statement, Hossam Kamal said Sharm el-Sheikh airport was not able to hold more than 120 tons of luggage left behind by tourists to be flown separately to the UK by cargo plane.

“This big volume will affect the smooth operation of the rest of the domestic and international flights,” said Mr Kamal.

“Egypt fully co-operates with the British side in the light of the resources of the airport and in accordance with international security regulations.”