First two flights of stranded Britons land in UK amid Sharm el-Sheikh chaos


The first flights bringing stranded holidaymakers back from Sharm el-Sheikh have landed in the UK as frustrated passengers were given conflicting information about whether or not other planes would take off.

An easyJet flight landed at Gatwick at 4.25pm while another touched down at Luton just after 5.30pm, but the airline has delayed another seven UK-bound flights until tomorrow.

Thousands of other Britons endured travel chaos as they waited to hear if their flights would leave today.

The situation descended into further chaos as some airlines, including Thomas Cook and Monarch, were forced to turn some of their planes around mid-flight, after being told they would not be allowed to land in the Egyptian resort.

The Egyptian authorities announced that just eight flights would depart from Sharm el-Sheikh for the UK, rather than the 29 initially expected.

Monarch said only two of five flights it intended to put on from Sharm el-Sheikh to the UK today were being permitted by the Egyptian authorities, while Thomas Cook said that of four return flights it expected to operate today, only one would be permitted to land at the airport.

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.

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."

Around 4,000 British tourists were expected to be brought home today, 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.