Anxiety and relief at Egypt resort airport

6th November 2015, Comments 0 comments

Tempers flared and confusion gripped crowds of British tourists stranded at Sharm el-Sheikh airport Friday as airlines scrambled to fly them home, days after a Russian plane crashed in the Sinai Peninsula.

Britain this week cancelled flights to the south Sinai resort over concerns that the Russian passenger plane had been brought down by a bomb, after the Islamic State group claimed to have downed the jet.

After a series of confusing statements from airlines and the authorities, Egypt announced that only eight of 29 flights laid on for British tourists would take off on Friday.

Donna Conway, 49, had been scheduled to fly back on Wednesday.

"We have no idea when we would fly, but we came to know that there is a flight at 11:00 am," she said. "There has been no communication from the embassy, no emails or text messages."

"Since then we are stuck in our hotel."

Others heckled the British ambassador when he arrived at the airport.

"When are we going home?" shouted one Briton forced to spend another night in a Sharm hotel.

"We don't know what's happening."

"We had a great time in Sharm, but now it's turning into a nightmare," said a tourist who gave his name as Will, a lawyer.

Even as crowds of British tourists anxiously waited to fly back home, hundreds of Russian holidaymakers left the Red Sea resort saying they would return soon.

While only two flights operated by British airline easyJet had left Sharm el-Sheikh by midday, 13 flights left the resort town carrying Russian tourists to Moscow and other cities.

No Russian flight had been cancelled since Saturday's crash of a jet operated by Kogalymavia and bound to Saint Petersburg, airport officials said, before President Vladimir Putin ordered a halt to Egypt flights on Friday afternoon.

The plane crashed 23 minutes after taking off from Sharm el-Sheikh, killing all 224 people on board.

"We are heading home after a great holiday in Sharm," said 29-year-old Anastasia Kartashova, as she stood in a queue to screen her luggage. "I am glad our flight is on schedule."

"It is sad what happened to the Saint Petersburg flight, but that won't stop me from returning to Sharm. We just love the sun here," she said, speaking in English and looking at her husband who stood behind her.

- 'Nobody knows anything' -

More than 100 other Russian tourists stood behind her waiting to screen their bags.

Several airport policemen, dressed in white, were helping tourists in screening their bags, as passengers passed through metal detectors.

Although many British tourists backed Britain's decision to suspend flights, they expressed frustration at the lack of information concerning their new flight schedules.

"I just want to know when I am flying out," said a woman, saying her children were tired and wanted to be home soon.

In a corner of the hall, three children were sleeping while a group of tourists near them listened to an announcement from easyJet.

"Oh no," shouted a tourist when she heard that there would be no more easyJet flights leaving on Friday.

"So where do we go now, back to the hotel?" asked another.

About 300 passengers departed on the two easyJet flights, but only with their hand luggage.

"We didn't know that only hand bags will be allowed. Nothing is clear, nobody knows anything," said one woman as she handed her luggage over for screening.

© 2015 AFP

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