A newlywed couple from Yorkshire are facing an anxious wait to see if their honeymoon in Egypt can go ahead after flights to the holiday resort of Sharm el-Sheikh were suspended.
Stephen and Maria Wilson, from Howden in East Yorkshire, are due to fly out for an 11-night stay in Sharm el-Sheikh on Thursday next week but now do not know if they will be able to travel.
It is feared Government concerns over the safety of flights in and out of the resort’s airport after a Russian airliner crashed in Egypt could result in holiday disruption for thousands.
Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond predicted today that more countries will suspend flights to Sharm el-Sheikh as efforts continued to bring thousands of stranded British tourists home.
He said the Government had been forced to take a “precautionary approach” by growing evidence that a bomb downed a Russian passenger plane in Egypt last week.
Nineteen flights that were due to leave the UK for Sharm el-Sheikh today and would have brought tourists home have been cancelled, but airlines expect to bring holidaymakers back to the UK from tomorrow.
Mr Wilson, an arable farmer, said he and his wife booked their honeymoon two weeks ago and were today “waiting to see if we can go or not”.
He said: “We wanted to go somewhere hot, but didn’t want to go long haul, so we went for Sharm el-Sheikh.
“We did our research and everybody said once you get out of Sharm airport, you’re fine. It’s a very safe area. It’s bulletproof, everyone said.
“We have been listening to the radio and the television, waiting for information, but we are not sure what we can do.”
Mr Wilson, 43, said he is waiting to hear from holiday firm Thomson about their options, having paid £1,600 for their sunshine break.
He said: “Ideally we want to know what’s happening by Saturday. That would give us enough time to put new plans in place.
“But at the moment other destinations are putting their prices up. We aren’t left with many options if we have to look elsewhere at the last minute.”
Yesterday, Britons who had returned recently from Sharm el-Sheikh criticised security at the airport as fears grew that the Russian airliner which crashed in Egypt was brought down by a bomb.
BBC weather forecaster Paul Hudson, climate correspondent for Look North in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, tweeted: “I returned from Sharm El Sheikh airport Friday morning just b4 plane crash. Security seemed shoddy to me and officials overstretched.”
Martin Parker, from Lincolnshire, replied to him: “Matches my experience. We even had to carry our hold luggage to the plane because of handling problems! Security seemed weak”
Sarah Poolman, from Sheffield, posted: “We supposed to fly 3rd December don’t want to go x”
Sylvia Tidy-Harris, the owner of the speakersagency.com, which supplies celebrity speakers for high profile events, tweeted: “How Sharm El Sheikh hoteliers and shopkeepers must feel right now - if only the authorities had improved their security to protect everyone”.
Ms Tidy-Harris, 54, from Ibstock, Leicestershire, told the Press Association: “The British airlines should have been sending people down to check what the airport is like. I used to be a stewardess with Monarch and I am very conscious of security. My husband and I went to Taba then Hurghada, at both of which the security was poor. After Hurghada, I contacted various authorities, but nobody was interested. Sharm is the worst of those.
“We were there last November and would have liked to go back this year but security is lax at the airport and at some of the hotels.
“Taxi drivers said airport security staff were very badly paid. They were either asleep, or on mobile phones. They would have their rifles just leaning against the side.
“At Sharm we just put our two-litre bottles of water on the conveyor, and nobody took them off us.
“I’ve been to many different places - say Morocco, Kenya - and didn’t feel security there was too bad. I didn’t feel so unhappy with the security as in Egypt.”
Flights from Sharm el-Sheikh were suspended last night in a “precautionary” move to allow time for a specialist British team to assess security arrangements in the Egyptian resort.
Emergency screening is being put in place at the Red Sea holiday resort’s airport to allow UK nationals to be flown home, after an inspection by UK experts identified serious security flaws.
The dramatic decision to suspend air links - taken at a meeting of the Cobra emergency committee last night - has been angrily denounced by Egypt’s foreign minister as a “premature and unwarranted” step that would smash its tourist industry.
In a round of broadcast interviews, Mr Hammond confirmed that Egyptian president Abdel Fatah al-Sisi - who is in the UK for a scheduled visit and will hold talks with David Cameron later - had not been notified in advance.
Mr Hammond said the intelligence that prompted the UK’s action was not being shared widely with other countries.
“Some intelligence we can share, some we cannot,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“We have reached a conclusion. What we are sharing with our partners is our conclusion.
“I expect during the course of today you will see more and more of those partners looking at those conclusions, listening to our explanations ... and deciding that they too want to take a precautionary approach.”
A Number 10 spokeswoman said: “While the investigation is still ongoing we cannot say categorically why the Russian jet crashed. But as more information has come to light we have become concerned that the plane may well have been brought down by an explosive device.
“In light of this, and as a precautionary measure, we have decided that flights due to leave Sharm for the UK this evening will be delayed.
“That will allow time for a team of UK aviation experts, currently travelling to Sharm, to make an assessment of the security arrangements in place at the airport and to identify whether any further action is required. We expect this assessment to be completed tonight.”
Prime Minister David Cameron was due to chair a meeting of the Cobra emergency committee on the issue today.
All 224 people on board were killed when the Metrojet flight bound for St Petersburg from Sharm el-Sheikh came down in the Sinai desert on Saturday.
The nature of the crash and the lack of an SOS call have fuelled speculation that it was caused by a bomb or missile. The Prime Minister spoke to Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi last night to discuss security measures at the popular holiday resort’s airport.
The Number 10 spokeswoman said there were no more departures from the UK to Sharm el-Sheikh due today.
“We would underline that this is a precautionary step and we are working closely with the airlines on this approach,” she added.
“We recognise that this information may cause concern for those in Sharm and indeed for those planning to travel to Sharm in the coming days. We have deployed extra consular staff to Sharm who will be on hand at the airport, working with the airlines, to assist British holidaymakers there.”
She said travellers should contact their airline or tour operator.