Stranded Scots tourists begin to return from Egypt

Farhaan Mirza and his wife Shahida. Picture: Contributed
Farhaan Mirza and his wife Shahida. Picture: Contributed
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Stranded Scots tourists have begun returning home to their families as a tour company’s flight to Glasgow was one of a handful of planes allowed to leave the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh yesterday.

Authorities in Egypt said that only eight of the planned 29 rescue flights from the resort were able to take off, reportedly due to baggage problems and general overcrowding at Sharm el-Sheikh airport.

Tourists queue at Sharm el-Sheikh airport. Picture: AFP/Getty Images

Tourists queue at Sharm el-Sheikh airport. Picture: AFP/Getty Images

However, the Glasgow Airport flight operated by Thomson Airways was one of the first planes to return from the resort since the UK government grounded flights due to fears that a terrorist bomb may have caused a Russian airliner to crash a week ago. Passengers were told they would have to return without their luggage – which would be brought back separately by UK security forces.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said earlier this week that there were several hundred Scottish tourists in the Red Sea resort.

Meanwhile, Russian president Vladimir Putin became the latest leader to suspend flights to and from the region, until security is improved at its airports. Around 20,000 to 30,000 Russian tourists are believed to now be stranded at the resort, adding further pressure to the already overcrowded airport.

A statement released after the meeting of officials from the UK government’s COBR emergency committee yesterday afternoon described the situation in Egypt as “hugely complex”.

Two easyJet flights to London took off yesterday, bringing 339 passengers home, while Monarch Airways said two of its flights – to London and Birmingham – would be able to fly, while three others had been cancelled. Thomson Airways operated two services, to Glasgow and London, while a single British Airways service ran as normal.

Egypt’s civil aviation minister Hossam Kamal said that as British airlines are flying without passengers’ luggage, the airport has not been able to cope with the more than 120 tons of luggage left behind. “This big volume will affect the smooth operation of the rest of the domestic and international flights,” he said, adding that a cargo plane is planned to carry the baggage of departing passengers the same day of the departure.

He added: “Egypt fully cooperates with the British side in the light of the resources of the airport and in accordance with international security regulations.”

Scots tourists were among thousands of UK nationals stuck in the country amid fears that a bomb may have been brought onto the Russian plane which crashed in the Sinai region last Saturday, killing all 224 people on board. Fears were raised over the stringency of security checks at Sharm el-Sheikh airport.

‘We’d all rather be safe than sorry’

Edinburgh-born Farhaan Mirza and his wife Shahida, from Falkirk, have been on holiday in Sharm el-Sheikh’s five-star Sensatori resort.

The couple were due to fly home last night but had their flight cancelled at the last minute.

“It’s very relaxed. People generally are not too concerned about their bags being delayed, as everyone would rather be safe than sorry,” said Mr Mirza. “All of the holidaymakers are just getting on as normal. There has been a bit of nervousness, but on the whole people don’t feel threatened at all.”