First Britons stranded in Sharm el-Sheikh land back in UK


The first flight bringing stranded holidaymakers back from Sharm el-Sheikh has landed in the UK as conflicting information was given about whether or not other flights would take off.

An easyJet flight landed at Gatwick at 4.25pm while another is on its way, but the airline has delayed another seven UK-bound flights until tomorrow.

Britons have been enduring travel chaos as they wait to hear if their flights will leave today.

Monarch announced that only two of five flights it intended to put on from Sharm el-Sheikh to the UK today will be permitted by the Egyptian authorities.

The situation descended into further shambles as Thomas Cook said that of four return flights it expected to operate today, only one will be permitted to land at the airport.

Earlier, the country's authorities announced that just eight flights would depart from Sharm el-Sheikh for the UK, rather than the 29 initially expected, as frustrated passengers waited for information.

Thomson Airways also said that "due to a last-minute change in Egyptian government restrictions" it could only operate two flights from Sharm el-Sheikh to the UK today.

The two flights to Gatwick are expected to depart later. 

The two Monarch flights will fly to Gatwick and Birmingham Airports, while the only Thomas Cook flight will drop passengers off at Birmingham and then East Midlands Airport.

British Airways, which has one flight leaving for Gatwick, said it had not been informed of any changes.

Customers will not be 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 has 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."

More than 20 flights were scheduled to leave Sharm el-Sheikh today with around 4,000 British tourists expected to be brought home, but it is currently unclear how many will have actually made the journey by tonight.

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

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.