A return to Sharm el-Sheikh will be ruled out until winter 2017‑18 at the earliest unless the UK government drops advice against air travel to the Egyptian airport “very fast”, said the UK head of Thomas Cook.
Managing director Chris Mottershead warned Sharm risks being “destroyed” as a resort and hit out at the government, describing the prohibition on flights as “unfathomable”.
The Foreign Office (FCO) imposed a ban on all but essential air travel to Sharm on November 4 last year after a Russian holiday jet crashed soon after take-off from the airport, killing 224 people.
Both Russia and the UK blamed a bomb and the then foreign secretary Philip Hammond said: “There will be no UK passenger flights to Sharm el-Sheikh from now.”
The Foreign Office does not advise against travel to the resort of Sharm.
Mottershead told Travel Weekly: “We’d like a decision in regard to Sharm. So many advisers have looked at what the airport needs to do, but I don’t see an end in sight.
“The longer this goes on, the more the destination is destroyed for the UK market. It’s not a tap you can turn on or off. You have to plan and market and persuade. If they [FCO] said Sharm was opening next week it would take six to eight months [to go back]. If there was a very fast decision, a return could happen for summer 2017.”
He added: “I don’t understand it. I understand the challenges in Tunisia, and unfortunately don’t hold out hope for Tunisia. But to prohibit an airport is unfathomable.
“We have to accept the ruling, but nobody says anything [and] it has been 12 months. It’s an absolute tragedy.”
An FCO spokesman said: “The travel advice is still current and will remain so for the foreseeable future. When we’re happy with the improved arrangements [at the airport] we’ll remove the advice.”
EgyptAir resumed weekly flights between Heathrow and Luxor on Monday after suspending services for the summer.
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