The government has announced that UK airlines will be allowed to fly to Egypt’s premier resort, Sharm el Sheikh, four years after flights were banned.
The prohibition was imposed following the crash of a Metrojet Airbus A320 in the Sinai desert shortly after take-off from Sharm el Sheikh, on 31 October 2015.
All 224 passengers and crew on the charter flight to St Petersburg died. It is widely believed that the plane was downed by a bomb placed onboard at the Egyptian airport.
Since 2015 the Foreign Office has said: “The UK government will continue working with the Egyptian authorities to enable regular flights between the UK and Sharm el Sheikh to resume.”
But the government now says: “On 22 October 2019 the restrictions were lifted. You should check with your airline or tour operator for information on services.”
The transport secretary, Grant Shapps, said: “We look forward to services to Sharm El-Sheikh resuming, and lifting the restriction is the first step in that process.
“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.”
The Independent understands British carriers will be able to fly to the Red Sea resort so long as some security protocols are followed. These are likely to include an insistence that UK security personnel carry out checks while the aircraft is on the ground in Sharm el Sheikh.
At the time the ban was imposed, Monarch and Thomas Cook were two of the leading UK travel firms serving Sharm el Sheikh.
They collapsed in October 2017 and September 2019 respectively. Before their failures, both companies said they were badly hit financially by the ban.
It is believed that David Cameron was planning to lift the ban in the summer of 2016, but he resigned as prime minister after the EU referendum and never made the decision.
The decision has come too late for airlines to reinstate services for the winter season, which is peak time for the resort.
The first company to respond to the announcement was Tui. A spokesperson told The Independent: “Sharm el Sheikh was always a popular holiday destination with our customers and we welcome the change in travel advice by the UK government. We will reintroduce Sharm el Sheikh, taking into account customer demand, and will now work closely with our hotel and airport partners so we can confirm more details in due course.”
An easyJet spokesperson: “We are aware of the lifting of the restriction on UK airlines flying into Sharm el Sheikh Airport and will look at any opportunities for easyJet and easyJet holidays as a result.”
Several countries imposed a ban on flights after the Metrojet crash, but all have now been lifted apart from Russia.
Reports indicate that Vladimir Putin and his Egyptian counterpart, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, will announce the restoration of flights in the next two days.