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Holiday Britons arrive back in Gatwick after Sharm flight

The first flight carrying British holidaymakers left stranded in Sharm el-Sheikh has arrived in the UK.

A total of 180 passengers made the five-and-a-half hour flight from the Red Sea resort to Gatwick Airport on easyJet Flight 9854.

Their arrival followed earlier confusion between British and Egyptian authorities over the timing of planned rescue flights.

The repatriation came after the UK Government suspended air links after an Airbus 321 operated by Russian airline Metrojet crashed, killing 224 people.

Meanwhile a second plane-load of relieved tourists touched down in Luton just after 5.30 this evening.

Greeted by care packages of tea, bread, chocolate and blankets, laid on by the airport, passengers described the frustration and fear of being stranded in Sharm el-Sheikh and their relief at making it home.

Kelly Thorogood-Gates, 29, from Buckingham, had been scheduled to fly home on Wednesday.

She described Sharm el-Sheikh airport today as "bedlam" as a further two-hour delay alarmed travellers further.

"It was a scary thing, and easyJet just didn't represent themselves out there. We didn't know what was going on, the staff didn't know what was going on, and I know it's horrible what happened and we were lucky we weren't on that flight, whatever happened to it."

Ms Thorogood-Gates, an emergency services worker, described being turned away from the airport on Wednesday:

"We sat at the airport, there were delays, there were delays, nothing was being said, and we were queuing to get on the plane, and then they started pulling people out of the queue, they started doing drugs swabs on them, searching people, going through people's bags, and we thought this is a bit odd.

"And then three or four hours later the British Embassy arrived, and walked past, and we didn't know who it was but we do now. They came in, and we thought, 'What's going on?', and it wasn't until my cousin rang me on my phone that we knew, and it was all of the UK that told us that we weren't going home."

Also among those turned away on Wednesday was Mohammed Islam, 38, travelling with his wife and four young children.

"On the Wednesday, we were actually taken off the bus. We were waiting, and fed up of waiting, and got taken off. On the way to the plane, and they took us back off. We were starting to suffocate (in the heat), nothing was happening, in the humidity.

Today, he said, travellers waiting at the airport were "50:50" whether they were going to get home.

Describing the high security currently imposed at Sharm el-Sheik's airport, Mr Islam said: "It was so congested, it's ridiculous. We were queuing for a long time, they kept on searching everyone, but obviously I can understand the situation. But how many times do you have to check an apple?"

Steve Lewis, 31, said that as he and his family waited for their flight, he felt "very frustrated, and I've got two small children - I just wanted to get out of the country really".

On Wednesday, he said, "the Egyptians were lovely people, really lovely people, but unfortunately they were clueless because they didn't know what was going on, hadn't been told anything, so it was chaos.

"We got put in a hotel, a lovely hotel, and returned to the airport today, but even when the actual plane was moving, we didn't believe it was going to take off, and eventually it did take off, we had fighter jets around us, we had military around. They were in the air while we were taking off.

But the mood changed when passengers sensed the end of their ordeal. Mr Lewis said:

"The atmosphere on the plane was brilliant. We're like a family. We've all exchanged details, we're going to catch up. We were really nervous at first when we were taking off and once we were in the air, everyone was laughing and joking, and got on really well."

"We're all really happy to be back. It was the best holiday because we're happy to be back."


From Belfast Telegraph