Thomson Airways extends Sharm el-Sheikh flight cancellations

© Asmaa Waguih
British travel company Thomson Airways has extended its cancellation of all flights to the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh until March 2016 over fears security at the airport is still not up to scratch.

The decision is a continuation of the British government’s suspension of all flights to the resort in November, after a Russian passenger plane was destroyed by Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL). All 224 on board, most of whom were Russian, were killed.

After the tragedy, more than 16,000 Brits were stranded in the resort and had to be brought back on emergency rescue flights.

On Wednesday evening, Thomson Airways announced it would continue to suspend flights until at least March 23. It followed the decision by budget airline EasyJet to cancel all flights to Sharm el-Sheikh until February 29.

British Airways has also suspended flights until February 13, while Monarch Airlines’ services to the resort may resume as early as January 24.

There have been no flights between the UK and Sharm el-Sheikh since November 17 due to warnings from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) not to travel unless absolutely necessary.

The Association of British Travel Agents said the decision to allow flights to the resort will be made by British authorities, not the airlines themselves.

The FCO says UK and Egyptian authorities are working together, along with travel companies, to ensure flights return to normal service “as soon as appropriate security arrangements are in place.

Travel analyst Bob Atkinson told the Press Association he believes the length of the delay indicates security issues are difficult to resolve.

“I suspect they will come back at some point,” he said, when asked when he thought flights would resume.

“The longer it goes on makes you think: ‘Why are they delaying it so long if it’s as simple as making sure security checks are in place?’

“It would indicate there are more concerns than they maybe originally thought and it may well be that the Egyptian authorities are taking longer to resolve it for some reason.”

He said the Egyptians were doing “everything possible within their powers” to solve the crisis, so that the tourism industry could resume normal service. 

“They are so heavily reliant on the tourism industry and Sharm is the big hitter of all their major centers,” he said.