Remaining Sharm el-Sheikh Britons await flights home


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

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

Of the 29 services scheduled, 21 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.

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 one 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."