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Ban on Sharm el-Sheikh flights lifted

All UK flights to the Red Sea resort had been banned since November 2015 following the bombing of a Russian airliner.

Restrictions on flights to Sharm el-Sheikh have been lifted (Chris Radburn/PA)
Restrictions on flights to Sharm el-Sheikh have been lifted (Chris Radburn/PA)

By Neil Lancefield, PA Transport Correspondent

Restrictions on flights between the UK and Sharm el-Sheikh have been lifted after nearly four years.

The Department for Transport announced that it has ended the ban due to improvements in security procedures at the Egyptian resort’s airport and close co-operation between the UK and Egypt on aviation security.

Sharm el-Sheikh was a popular destination with UK tourists until all UK flights were halted in November 2015 following the bombing of a Russian airliner.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “We look forward to services to Sharm el-Sheikh resuming, and lifting the restriction is the first step in that process.

“The safety and security of British nationals remains our top priority and this decision follows close co-operation between our aviation security experts and their Egyptian counterparts, and improvements in security procedures at the airport.

“We will now work closely with airlines who wish to resume flights to and from the airport.”

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office updated its travel advice for Egypt to reflect the change in policy, but continued to warn of a “heightened risk of terrorism against aviation in Egypt”.

It added that “additional security measures are in place for flights departing from Egypt to the UK” and advised visitors to the country to “co-operate fully with security officials at airports”.

Travel trade organisation Abta said the decision to lift flight restrictions was “welcome news” for the industry as well as the local economy around Sharm el-Sheikh.

Tui confirmed it will resume selling holidays to the resort, while airline easyJet said it will “look at any opportunities” in relation to the news.

The Government’s decision could be too late for flights to operate this winter, meaning holidaymakers may have to wait until next summer to make the trip.

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Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the safety of British nationals remains the Government’s top priority (Aaron Chown/PA)

Hundreds of thousands of UK tourists went to the Red Sea destination each year before the ban on flights was introduced.

The measure has seen the number of UK visitors dwindle as it forced them to either take multiple flights or a ferry from Hurghada.

It was one of the factors which led to the collapse of airline Monarch in October 2017.

Speaking 12 months earlier, then-chief executive Andrew Swaffield said the company’s financial struggles began when flights to Sharm el-Sheikh were banned.

“That was really the moment … it became clear that things were beginning to turn,” he told delegates at a travel convention.

All 224 people on board an Airbus 321 operated by Russian airline Metrojet were killed in a suspected terrorist bombing soon after take-off from Sharm el-Sheikh Airport in October 2015.

Islamic State jihadis claimed responsibility for the attack.

More than 16,000 Britons stranded in the area were brought home on a series of rescue flights amid heightened security.

It has been reported that Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Egyptian counterpart, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, will discuss resuming flights between the countries at a summit later this week.

PA

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