Ban on direct UK flights to Sharm el Sheikh lifted

22 October 2019, 14:13 | Updated: 22 October 2019, 18:17

Britain has lifted a ban on direct flights to Sharm el Sheikh four years after an Islamic State bombing of a Russian airliner triggered a suspension.

The Department for Transport said improvements in security procedures at the airport and close cooperation between the UK and Egypt meant commercial airlines could again operate routes to and from the popular holiday destination.

Britain's prolonged suspension of flights had been a point of friction between London and Cairo, with the Egyptian government pushing for the ban to be halted sooner.

Tourism is an important part of Egypt's economy, particularly at beach resorts like Sharm el Sheikh.

"We look forward to services to Sharm el Sheikh resuming and lifting the restriction is the first step in that process," said Grant Shapps, the transport secretary.

"The safety and security of British nationals remains our top priority and this decision follows close co-operation between our aviation security experts and their Egyptian counterparts, and improvements in security procedures at the airport.

"We will now work closely with airlines who wish to resume flights to and from the airport."

Travel trade organisation Abta said the decision to lift flight restrictions was "welcome news" for the industry as well as the local economy around Sharm el Sheikh.

Tui confirmed it will resume selling holidays to the resort, while airline easyJet said it will "look at any opportunities" in relation to the news.

The government's decision could be too late for flights to operate this winter, meaning holidaymakers may have to wait until next summer to make the trip.

Sharm el Sheikh was a favourite location for British tourists until the bombing of a Russian airliner on 31 October 2015.

All 224 people on board the Airbus 321 operated by Russian airline Metrojet were killed in the blast soon after take-off from Sharm el Sheikh Airport.

Islamic State militants claimed responsibility for the attack.

More than 16,000 Britons stranded in the area were brought home on a series of rescue flights amid heightened security.

The number of British tourists visiting the Red Sea resort - which had numbered close to a million per year - dropped significantly following the ban on direct flights.

Tarek Adel, Egypt's ambassador to Egypt, applauded the UK's move and signalled it marked a renewed strengthening of ties between the two countries.

"The Egyptian Government welcomes the UK's decision announced today lifting restrictions on direct flights to Sharm El-Sheikh," he said in a statement.

"This decision has been taken after intensified cooperation between both countries throughout the past period, and Egypt looks forward to the resumption of direct flights between the UK and Sharm El-Sheikh soon.

"This is good news for British tourists and tour operators, for whom Sharm El-Sheikh is a popular destination. We are confident that this step will provide renewed impetus to our bilateral relations and the fruitful cooperation that exists in various fields, including tourism."

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