Airport security review signalled by foreign secretary

Airport security review signalled by foreign secretary

Travellers face the prospect of an airport security clampdown amid growing concern that a bomb smuggled on board brought down a Russian aircraft over Egypt killing all 224 people on board.

Foreign secretary Philip Hammond (pictured) revealed that security measures will have to be reviewed in areas where Islamic State militants are active if the crash is found to have been caused by a bomb.

His comments came as reports emerged over the weekend that a Thomson Airways flights with 189 passengers was forced to take evasive action after the pilot spotted a rocket as it approached Sham el-Sheikh in August.

According to Thomson, a Department for Transport investigation found it was probably a flare, the Mail on Sunday reported.

Flights which were delayed on Friday due to Sharm el-Sheikh airport’s inability to cope with new government restrictions imposed on hold luggage finally began operating over the weekend but many holidaymakers in the Red Sea resort face lengthy delays before they are repatriated.

While flights to the UK were limited, as many as 20 left for Russia on Saturday after Moscow followed the UK lead in advising against all but essential travel by air to or from Sharm el-Sheikh.

Around 3,000 British holidaymakers returned on Friday and Saturday, with about 2,000 put on flights yesterday.

But a government spokesman said: “With a limited number of flights able to leave Sharm el-Sheikh each day for the UK, it is likely that tour operators or airlines will advise some people to extend their stay at their resort.    

“We understand that tour operators and airlines are working to ensure that where people need to extend their stay at their resort necessary costs will be covered.

“The additional security measures we have put in place have led to delays to flights, and we understand the frustration that has caused, but our top priority will continue to be the safety of British nationals returning to the UK.”

EasyJet disclosed yesterday that it had 2,500 passengers still in Sharm el-Sheikh due to limitations on the number of aircraft allowed to operate from the airport to between one and three a day instead of the planned six.

The budget airline faces a backlog of flights with delays of up to four days. 

Describing the situation as “becoming clearer, although no less difficult,” easyJet told passengers stuck in Sharm el-Sheikh: “To help us to help you, we recommend you speak to your hotel and try and extend your stay for up to a further 4 days.

“We hope that most customers will not be delayed for more than that, but the situation remains fluid.

“Our plan is to bring home as many passengers every day as we can, and to prioritise those who have been delayed the longest.

“However, if the situation doesn’t change, this means that many customers may be delayed in Sharm el-Sheikh for between 3-4 days.”

The airline released a provisional flight schedule detailing when it hopes to run 10 flights back to Manchester, Stansted, Gatwick and Luton between Wednesday and Sunday (November 15).

Hammond was asked about the implications for airport security in the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.

He said: “If this turns out to be a device planted by an Isil operative, or by somebody inspired by Isil, then clearly we will have to look again at the level of security we expect to see in airports in areas where Isil is active.

“What we have to do is ensure that airport security everywhere is at its best and that it reflects local conditions. One of the key issues about keeping airports safe is the training, management and motivation of staff.

“That may mean additional costs, it may mean additional delays at airports as people check in.”

Thomson, Thomas Cook and Monarch continue to operate a limited number of flights from Sharm el-Sheikh to bring holidaymakers home, with Thomas Cook flying 232 people back to Gatwick yesterday and a further two flights planned for today.

The operator said: “Thomas Cook is awaiting confirmation of flight slots for Tuesday – accordingly a further update will be distributed when these are approved.

“We would like to reassure our customers and their families that our priority remains their safety and welfare and we are working diligently with the Egyptian government and authorities to bring passengers home as quickly as possible.”

Thomson operated three flights yesterday to Birmingham, Gatwick and Manchester and said: “We continue to work with the UK government to try and finalise our flying programme for the following days and we will update accordingly when further information becomes available.”

Monarch ran two flights, each carryings 214 passengers, back from Sharm el-Sheikh yesterday and plans a further two flights into Gatwick and Luton today.

“Monarch is working continuously with Department of Transport and the Egyptian authorities to get customers back to the UK as quickly as possible,” the company said.

“We recognise this is a very frustrating situation and apologise for the inconvenience this is causing our customers.

Monarch added: “The UK government is making arrangements for hold luggage to be returned to customers as soon as possible.

“The bags will be flown to the UK on government organised freighters and they will then be processed and sorted into specific airline groups.

“When the luggage arrives back in the UK, it will be subject to customs clearance and sortation. Monarch’s couriers will process the luggage for delivery to the address customers have provided.

“We are sorry that we cannot give definite dates to customers for delivery at this stage, however please be assured that we will be doing all we can to deliver luggage to our customers as soon as possible.”

All outbound holiday flights to Sharm el-Sheikh remain cancelled until Thursday.


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