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Sharm el-Sheikh security fears delay resumption of flights from UK

By Neil Lancefield, Gavin Cordon and Dominic Harris

Airlines have delayed the resumption of flights from the UK to Sharm el-Sheikh amid continuing security concerns at the Egyptian airport.

Thousands of Britons are stranded in the Red Sea resort following the decision by the UK Government to suspend air links after a Russian plane crashed.

Flights to bring holidaymakers home resumed on Friday and hundreds more passengers are due to arrive home tonight.

Investigators are understood to be 90% sure a noise picked up by the cockpit voice recorder in the final seconds of the flight was the sound of an explosion caused by a bomb.

No airlines are taking passengers from the UK directly to Sharm.

Monarch, easyJet, Thomson Airways and Thomas Cook Airlines extended the period for which they have cancelled outbound flights up to and including November 25.

A Monarch spokesman said: "We recognise this is a very frustrating situation and apologise for the inconvenience this is causing our customers."

British Airways (BA) is keeping its flights from Thursday "under review".

The airline is not selling tickets to new customers for flights up to November 23.

Tight security restrictions are limiting the number of services from Sharm to the UK, meaning many passengers are being forced to extend their trip by several days.

Almost 5,300 holidaymakers have returned home since Friday, with 1,936 departing on eight flights yesterday.

At least 11 flights are scheduled to operate today, consisting of four by Thomson Airways, two by Thomas Cook Airlines, Monarch and easyJet, as well as one by BA.

London Gatwick, Luton, Manchester, Birmingham and Edinburgh airports will all be served.

As thousands of holidaymakers remain stranded, tour operators and airlines are expected to cover the costs of extended stays.

Some tourists returning to the UK described chaotic scenes, with people trampled and hurt as they rushed for planes while swamped security staff carried out only cursory checks.

Others said security at the airport had been ramped up significantly, with armed guards on checkpoints outside the main terminal building and three further security checks inside.

The downed Russian plane - an Airbus 321 - was still gaining altitude as it disintegrated 23 minutes after take-off on October 31, killing all 224 people on board the Metrojet flight.

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has warned airport security around the world would have to be overhauled if it was confirmed the crash in the Sinai was caused by an Islamic State (IS) bomb.

The investigation committee has yet to formally declare its findings, but Mr Hammond reaffirmed that the view of the British authorities was that it was "more likely than not" that the crash was the result of a terrorist bomb planted on the aircraft before it took off from Sharm el-Sheikh.

And he said there would have to be a major rethink of airport security in countries where IS, also referred to as Isil or Isis, is active if it turned out that they were behind the attack.

"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," he told BBC1's The Andrew Marr Show.

The Foreign Secretary also suggested the incident could open up the possibility of renewed co-operation between the West and Russia on Syria where IS is concentrated.

Belfast Telegraph Digital


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