Thousands of stranded Sharm el-Sheikh Britons expected home


Thousands of Britons stuck in Sharm el-Sheikh following the Russian plane crash are expected to return to the UK later today.

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

At least four airlines are expected to be running flights to Britain from the Egyptian city today.

Monarch has two flights, to Bristol and Manchester, while two Thomson planes will also bring tourists back to Manchester airport.

Two Thomas Cook flights are due to arrive at Manchester and Gatwick, while British Airways sent an empty plane to Sharm el-Sheikh this morning to return holidaymakers to Gatwick this evening.

EasyJet also plans to bring another 445 passengers back, with two planes due to fly in to Luton tonight. The company has around 4,000 passengers in Sharm el-Sheikh, of whom 1,000 have been delayed.

Egypt's civil aviation minister Hossam Kamal said the volume of luggage being left behind by British passengers has disrupted operations at the airport, and a large number of scheduled flights have been cancelled.

Of 29 services scheduled yesterday, 21 were cancelled by the Egyptian authorities and some planes were forced to divert mid-flight. The number of flights to the UK is being restricted.

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 (IS) terror group in the Sinai Peninsula have claimed that they downed the plane.

Tourists have since been stranded after authorities brought in stringent security measures, with customers barred from taking any hold luggage with them on any of the flights. It will be brought back to the UK separately by cargo plane after being screened.

Evidence is mounting to suggest the Russian plane was brought down by a bomb. 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.