Thomson Airways, Thomas Cook, Monarch, easyJet and British Airways have all suspended flights to Sharm el-Sheikh after the government changed its travel advice to the Red Sea resort.
The abrupt halting of flights – leaving an estimated 9,000 British tourists stranded in the Egyptian destination – follows the disclosure that a bomb was the likely cause of a Russian Airbus crashing shortly after take-off from Sharm el-Sheikh airport on Saturday with the loss of 224 lives.
Airlines and tour operators are making contingency plans to deal with the fast-moving developments which saw the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) alter its travel advice overnight following the warning from No 10 yesterday afternoon.
Foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, confirmed that Britain was suspending all flights to and from Sharm el-Sheikh indefinitely and UK nationals already there would be helped to leave once extra security measures were put in place.
He added that arrangements were being made to fly people home tomorrow (Friday), and that 19 flights scheduled for the UK today (Thursday) would not depart.
"The airlines are telling us that they expect by tomorrow they'll be in a position to start flying those British visitors back to the UK," he said.
"We're spending today with the airlines, with the Egyptian authorities, putting in place short-term emergency measures that will allow us to screen everything going on to those planes, double-check those planes, so that we can be confident that they can fly back safely to the UK."
The FCO said there was a “significant possibility that the crash was caused by an explosive device”.
It added: “As a precautionary measure, we are now advising against all but essential travel by air to or from Sharm el-Sheikh.
“UK carriers will not take passengers directly to Sharm el-Sheikh airport.
“We are working with the Egyptian authorities and air carriers to put special security measures in place which will permit travellers in Sharm el-Sheikh to return by air, whether as scheduled at the end of their stay or before that if they wish. British nationals affected by this should contact their tour operators or carriers to arrange an orderly departure.”
The FCO added: “British nationals affected by this should contact their tour operators or carriers to arrange an orderly departure.
“We are not raising the threat level in the resort. The advice applies only to air travel to and from Sharm el-Sheikh.”
Abta said: "We are liaising with the UK government about the halt to flights in and out of Sharm el-Sheikh airport and how we can assist our members and customers in resort, or those due to travel out. We will provide further updates when they are available."
Thomson and Thomas Cook
Thomson and Thomas Cook cancelled all flights to Sharm el-Sheikh until next Thursday (November 12) and offered refunds to passengers due to fly.
All Thomson holidaymakers in the resort who travelled on Thomson Airways on a flight-only basis were advised to immediately contact a 24-hour holiday line on +44 33 33 365 147. A dedicated support line was set up for customers on 0800 009 3833.
Thosmon said: “As a priority, we’re contacting customers due to travel tomorrow (Thursday) and ask those travelling later in the week to please bear with us as we manage this evolving situation.
“Our experienced overseas resort team will be updating all our customers currently on holiday in Sharm el-Sheikh of the change in FCO travel advice and we’ll be making arrangements to return these customers to the UK.”
Thomas Cook said it will be seeking to bring back all 1,700 holidaymakers in the resort “in due course”.
“Given that no UK flights will be operating in or out of Sharm el-Sheikh on Thursday 5 November, we have made arrangements for any customers due to return home to remain in their accommodation free of charge.
“Our team in-destination are dedicated to ensuring that all customers are as comfortable as possible until such a time as they fly home.”
Cook set up a dedicated phone line for customers on 01733 224536 and for agents on 01733 224520.
“We are continuing to closely monitor the situation, working in collaboration with our overseas team and the FCO. We will provide further updates as and when appropriate,” Cook said.
Red Sea Holidays
Red Sea Holidays has more than 600 holidaymakers in Sharm El Sheikh.
All have been contacted by the company’s resort teams, are fully aware of the circumstances and will be kept in touch with any further developments throughout this period, the operator said
Deputy managing director, Jason Hilton, said: “We’re working closely with our resort staff, airline partners, Abta and government officials in both countries and have assured guests whose holidays were due to end this week that they will able to stay in their hotels free of charge until such time as their transfers to the UK are available.
“We’re obviously working within a very fluid situation at the moment.
“Our primary concerns are with our guests in resort who continue to enjoy the hospitality and fine weather that has made Sharm el-Sheikh such a popular destination.”
Monarch also cancelled all flights to the destination with immediate effect on the FCO’s advice.
“The airline is currently working with the FCO to make arrangements to bring home those customers currently in resort,” Monarch said.
“Customers who were booked to travel to Sharm El Sheikh this week should call the Monarch Customer Contact Centre on 0333 003 0107 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a refund or to re-book their flights.
“Customers who have booked a package holiday to Sharm el-Sheikh with Monarch departing this week can contact our holidays team on 0333 777 4744 to make alternative arrangements or arrange a refund.
“The safety and security of our customers is our priority and we will do everything we can to support our customers who are currently in Sharm el-Sheikh. We will continue to provide regular updates.”
EasyJet said all flights to and from Sharm el-Sheikh were suspended today (Thursday) and possibly longer.
“The period of suspension is unknown at this time,” the budget airline admitted.
“We are working very closely with the UK government and will give you information on our recovery plans as soon as possible.”
The carrier is contacting as many hotels in and around Sharm el-Sheikh area as possible early today to help and provide support to its travellers.
“If you are currently staying at a hotel, prior to your planned checkout time from the hotel, please speak to the reception to keep your room for the next few days if possible,” easyJet said.
“We will cover all accommodation and reasonable food expenses until we can get you home. Please keep your receipts and claim it back from our customer services.
“If there are no options to remain in your hotel, go to the airport where our team on the ground will be happy to assist you in finding accommodation. Please don’t transfer onto new flights at the moment, as we are still assessing our flying programme and might have to cancel more flights as the situation is not yet clear.”
EasyJet said it expected to provide a further update at 10.30am this morning.
BA’s Sharm el-Sheikh flights have been suspended for 24 hours, with a departure from Gatwick today postponed until Friday and a flight from the resort also put back by a day.
“Customers not wishing to travel on the postponed flights on Friday will be able to claim a full refund, or switch to an alternate destination,” BA said.
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