Aircraft from a number of UK locations have been sent to Larnaca and Paphos airports to bring home British tourists stranded at Sharm el-Sheikh, a Hermes Airports spokesman has said.
Stranded British holidaymakers will then be evacuated from the Egyptian resort after the UK government suspended flights to and from Egypt on Wednesday following the crash of a Russian Metrojet operated Airbus 321, which killed all 224 passengers on board.
British Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said that according to information gathered by UK officials, there was a “high probability” that the Russian aircraft was brought down by an explosive device, though he said he was still waiting for final confirmation. Militants of the Islamic State terrorist group in the Sinai Peninsula had initially claimed that they downed the plane, which Russian and Egyptian officials denied.
Other reports said that security agencies had received intelligence, based on intercepted communications between Sinai militants, which indicated that a bomb had been planted on the plane.
The first of the aircraft have already arrived in Cyprus and are waiting for the go-ahead to fly to Sharm el-Sheikh to pick up the tourists and fly them home.
With around 20,000 British tourists stranded at the resort, more aircraft are expected to land in Cyprus to fly on to Egypt. It is not known if the passengers will fly home directly or land in Cyprus.
Monarch, the CNA said, sent five aircraft from Britain, however, only two were expected to return to the UK on Friday. Two aircraft were grounded and a fifth was instructed to divert its flight to Larnaca. Two Thomson Airways aircraft were reportedly instructed to fly to Larnaca instead.
For security purposes, British travellers will only be permitted to take hand luggage with them. Hold baggage will be sent on separately by cargo plane.
Turkey has cancelled flights to Sharm el-Sheikh and Russia suspended all passenger flights to Egypt on Friday. The Russian Travel Industry Union estimated there were around 50,000 Russian tourists currently in Egypt.
Meanwhile, the Press Association reports that the first flights bringing about 4,000 stranded holidaymakers back from Sharm el-Sheikh landed in the UK late yesterday evening.