Holidaymakers have been left in the lurch as flights between the UK and Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt have been suspended by the Government due to a "high threat from terrorism". Here's what you need to know.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) announced on 5 November that it's preventing UK airlines from flying passengers directly between the UK and Sharm el-Sheikh airport until it's "satisfied that it is safe for them to do so".
The move comes after a plane carrying 224 people from Sharm el-Sheikh to St Petersburg crashed, killing all on board. The FCO warned there is a "significant possibility that the crash was caused by an explosive device".
A provisional date of Thursday 12 November has so far been given for the ban preventing flights between the UK and Sharm el-Sheikh to be lifted.
However, some UK airlines say they are operating scheduled flights for travellers to be brought home from 6 November, as well as putting on additional flights, though luggage restrictions have been put in place. See more on this below.
I'm still in the UK. Can I cancel my holiday?
If you're due to fly to Sharm el-Sheikh, both the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) and the Association of British Insurers (ABI) say holidaymakers should speak to their tour operators, travel agents or airlines in the first instance.
In this situation, you're protected in the following ways:
- Booked a package holiday? Under the 'Package Travel Directive', if a holiday provider is unable to fulfil its obligation, you're entitled to a full refund if you decide to cancel, or you can choose alternative travel.
- 'DIY' bookings: If for example you booked flights, accommodation and car hire separately, under the 'Denied Boarding Regulation' (also known as EC261/2004), if the flight's cancelled, you're entitled to a full refund or an alternative flight (see our Flight Delays guide for full information). However, for any hotels or car hire booked you need to contact them directly to see if you can get a refund. ABTA says it may be difficult, but do check the terms and conditions of your booking.
If you can't get a refund from the provider and you've got travel insurance, whether or not you'll get a refund depends on your policy. The ABI adds that where alternative arrangements are made, travel insurance policies can usually be transferred to cover the new destination.
I'm still in the UK but want to travel, will I be covered by my insurance?
The Government can't comment on whether non-UK airlines will also impose restrictions, but while these may be flying, the FCO advises travellers to avoid ALL but essential travel by air to or from Sharm el-Sheikh airport, as well as to South Sinai, plus it advises against ALL travel to North Sinai.
If you go against this advice, you may be in breach of your insurance. This means you may not be covered if something goes wrong.
ABTA says very few insurers cover terrorist acts/terrorism either as standard or as add-on cover.
The FCO isn't however warning against travel within the resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, although consular staff have been deployed to assist British nationals. It is also not warning against flying to or from Cairo, or travelling to tourist areas along the Nile river such as Luxor, Qina, Aswan, Abu Simbel and the Valley of the Kings, or the Red Sea resort of Hurghada.
I'm in Sharm el-Sheikh. What does this mean for me?
ABTA estimates there are around 9,000 people currently on holiday in Sharm el-Sheikh (booked via its members), but there are likely to be more people there who may have booked travel elsewhere.
If you're on a package holiday in Sharm el-Sheikh, ABTA says you should contact your tour operator as you're entitled to free accommodation and food and drink. It also advises passengers to keep all their receipts in case they need to claim this back from their tour operators.
If you booked a DIY holiday, ABTA says you should contact your airline, as you will also be entitled to accommodation, and food and drink until you get back home. However, check with your airline what level of cover it will provide.
If anything does go wrong, ABTA says most insurance policies will still provide cover for holidaymakers in a country at the time of an FCO change of advice.
In terms of flights coming back to the UK, here's what four of the major airlines say they're doing as of 11.30am on 6 November:
- British Airways: The BA2561, which was originally due to leave on 5 November, will now depart on 6 November. Flights scheduled from Sharm el-Sheikh to Gatwick (it only operates this route) is also scheduled on 7 November and 9 November. Hotel accommodation will be provided to customers in Sharm el-Sheikh who were due to fly out sooner.
- Easyjet: Easyjet says the situation for UK flights from Sharm el-Sheikh remains "fluid". Of the two flights that will be departing from Sharm el-Sheikh on 6 November, EZY9854 (Sharm el-Sheikh to London Gatwick) is now airborne and it hopes EZY9398 (Sharm el-Sheikh to London Luton) will depart shortly. Eight of Easyjet's planned flights on 6 November will no longer operate.You can check the status of your flight on its Flight Tracker. It adds that it's covering the costs of additional hotel accommodation and expenses.
- Monarch: All flights out of Sharm el-Sheikh were cancelled on 5 November. The airline says it will operate three additional flights on 6 November to make up for this, in addition its two scheduled flights will also depart Sharm el-Sheikh as planned today. See the Monarch website for more information.
- Thomas Cook: Scheduled flights from Sharm el-Sheikh to the UK will operate as planned – see the Thomas Cook website for its scheduled flight times.Travellers on flights out of Sharm el-Sheikh, which were cancelled on 5 November, will be rescheduled on flights departing from today onwards.
The UK Government has also announced restrictions to luggage allowances for customers returning from Sharm el-Sheikh. Only hand luggage will be allowed so while customers can check-in hold luggage, it will be stored in a "secure location" at the airport so it won't be sent on planes.
Instead, customers need to fill out baggage delay forms on board so their bags are "delivered to their home address as quickly as possible". Buggies and wheelchairs also won't be allowed in the hold.