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The repatriation of thousands of holidaymakers stranded in Sharm el-Sheikh following the government’s terror alert has started today amid tight security.
A fleet of special repatriation flights is being laid on by easyJet, Monarch, Thomas Cook and Thomson, while British Airways is to run delayed scheduled services to Gatwick.
Abta said around 9,000 travellers are on holiday in the Egyptian Red Sea resort with its members in addition to “several thousand” holidaymakers who have travelled independently.
Holidaymakers being flown home face stricter security measures at Sharm el-Sheikh airport.
Those flying back will only be permitted hand baggage, with any large luggage items “securely stored at the airport until they can be safely returned to the UK” in line with the government’s advisory regarding strict restrictions on bags, Thomas Cook said.
“Given the limited space in the cabin, Thomas Cook customers will be entitled to two pieces of cabin baggage. Each bag should be no larger than a standard sized carrier or hand bag, one of which can be placed under the seat, the other in the overhead locker,” the company said.
A Downing Street spokesman said: “The additional security measures will include permitting passengers to carry hand baggage only and transporting hold luggage separately.
“We are working with the airlines to ensure there are suitable arrangements in place to reunite passengers with their belongings as soon as possible.”
Thomas Cook had 1,700 package holidaymakers and 300 flight-only travellers in-resort when the government grounded flights in the wake of the security scare surrounding the crash of the Russian Metrojet flight on Saturday with the loss of 224 lives.
Reports this morning suggested a bomb could have been smuggled on board the Airbus A321 in passenger luggage.
Thomas Cook said it will be bringing those currently on holiday in Sharm el-Sheikh home on their scheduled flights over the next six days in line with government advice.
Customers due to travel to Sharm el-Sheikh up to and including November 12 can cancel or re-book their holiday free of charge with a £25 discount on the alternative holiday with Thomas Cook and £30 with Thomson.
Thomson confirmed that flights returning to the UK will operate under special security measures mandated by the UK government.
“Customers will not be able to bring any hold luggage with them on these flights. Only hand luggage can be brought on board and normal Thomson cabin baggage restrictions apply.
“All hold luggage will be returned to customers under separate secure cover arranged by the UK government,” the operator said.
“Our experienced overseas resort team are updating all our customers currently on holiday in Sharm el-Sheikh and doing everything we can to assist them as we manage this evolving situation.
“Holiday reps are regularly visiting all hotels and can be contacted for the most up to date information when it is available. Customers are advised to keep an eye on the noticeboards in the hotels or our website for the latest information.”
Concerns over the situation in Egypt triggered a fall in the shares of both Thomas Cook and Thomson owner Tui Group on the London stock exchange yesterday by more than 8p to 112p and 8p to £11.52 respectively.
Monarch is deploying three additional flights to Birmingham, Gatwick and Manchester today in addition to two scheduled flights from Sharm el-Sheikh to Gatwick and Manchester.
EasyJet is operating five additional flights today to the UK in addition to two flights scheduled to fly to Gatwick and Luton and two flights delayed from Wednesday also to Gatwick and Luton.
Abta said: “Additional flights as well as rescheduled flights from Wednesday and Thursday are being put on by the airlines to help the backlog of customers waiting to return home.
“Outbound flights from the UK to Sharm el-Sheikh are still suspended and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office continues to advise against all but essential travel by air to and from Sharm el-Sheikh.
“Since Wednesday, the UK government has been undertaking ongoing assessments of the security arrangements at Sharm el-Sheikh airport.
“As a result of the current situation, holidaymakers travelling from Sharm el-Sheikh airport will have to follow certain special procedures as set out by the government, including restrictions on taking hold luggage and the size of hand luggage.
“Whilst it is appreciated this may cause some inconvenience, these procedures are being implemented for the security and safety of passengers and its important that passengers follow their airline’s requirements.”
The association added: “Those with holidays booked within the next 48 hours to Sharm el-Sheikh are advised to contact their travel company to discuss their options. If you have booked a package you will be entitled to a refund or alternative holiday.
“If you are not travelling within the next 48 hours you will need to check with your travel company as to what your options are and follow their advice.
“Those people with bookings beyond this are advised to wait until closer to the departure date to contact their travel company as the situation is fluid.”
A Downing Street spokesman said: “Outbound flights from the UK to Sharm el-Sheikh remain suspended and the Foreign Office continues to advise against all but essential travel by air to or from Sharm el-Sheikh airport but we are continuing to work with the Egyptians to get back to normal service as soon as possible.”
Prime minister David Cameron, speaking during a visit to London by Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, said: “We’re committed to working together in the short term to meet all concerns about the security of the airport in order to enhance the safety of departing passengers.
“We’re also committed to working together to restore normal flights in both directions as soon as possible.
“British holidaymakers want to go to Sharm, and Egyptians want to welcome them there. Almost a million British holidaymakers enjoy Sharm el-Sheikh every year, and we recognise the importance of their visits to Egypt.”
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