“Do we have to go home?” is a common, plaintive wail at the end of vacations in sunnier climes. But for Brits in Sharm el-Sheikh the answer is “No, not yet,” after the U.K. government grounded all flights to and from the popular Red Sea resort, leaving some 20,000 British holidaymakers stranded. The decision to cancel all flights came as British Prime Minister David Cameron said it was increasingly likely a terrorist bomb caused a Russian passenger jet to explode in midair Saturday, killing all 224 people on the aircraft. Thomson Airways, Thomas Cook and British Airways are among the companies that have canceled flights following the U.K. Foreign Office’s warning against “all but essential travel.”
Britons stuck as Sharm flights halted ... https://t.co/ViLx6Nw16Z— UK News Information (@AnglosearchNews) November 5, 2015
British tourists stuck in the resort told International Business Times that their main problem is a lack of information from official sources. Emma Patterson, a junior doctor in Portsmouth, England, who was staying at the Regency Plaza Hotel for a short winter break, said that she hadn’t received any communication from the hotel or Thomson airline. “Everything I’ve heard has been from people back in the U.K.” She only discovered that flights had been grounded when a friend from home texted her. “I’ve [been] strangely oblivious. I’m finding out everything second-hand.”
But Patterson was relatively calm, joking in a Facebook post, “Bit of sun, bit of sea, bit of kiting, bit of terrorism scare,” above a picture of an idyllic beach.
“I’m fairly laid-back about this sort of stuff and trust the people in charge to make the right calls.” Her only concern, she told IBT, was not being back in time for work on Monday. “The [British National Health Service] is already at full stretch and I’d hate to add any pressure to my colleagues if they end up having to cover for me.”
Others, less sanguine, were worried that their money would run out. Bradley Whitehead, traveling with a family party of 10, phoned Thomson for information. He was told that he should arrive at the airport on Saturday, as per his scheduled flight, but that there were no guarantees of the flight taking off. Passengers due to fly with Thomson have been told that, in the event their plane is grounded, accommodation will be provided in the nearby Four Seasons hotel.
Is it bad to say I wouldn't mind being stuck in sharm? #tanningtime— Keval P (@keval_91) November 5, 2015
No mention has been made, Whitehead said, of any compensation. The 28-year-old engineer booked an all-inclusive holiday package for him, his partner and two children. If their sleeping and eating costs are not covered, he says, he only has around £ 200 ($300) to last his family the rest of the week. He would be a lot more confident, he told IBT, if the hotel and airline had given them clear information. “We could relax more if they talked to us … Our [holiday] rep could have put a note under our door ... We’re in limbo. We’ve just been told to pack our bags and we don’t know what will happen.”
Following increased speculation that the Russian jet was downed in a terror attack, Whitehead is also concerned about the potential security threat. “I didn’t sleep a lot last night. I can’t put my daughter on an airplane unless I know it’s safe,” he said.
The question of safety has been a point of tension between the U.K. and Egypt. After David Cameron defended the suspension of flights, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi announced that U.K. experts carried out security checks on Sharm el-Sheikh airport 10 months ago and found it satisfactory. Extra U.K. consular staff have since been drafted in to the airport along with British military personnel advising on logistics and security.
On social media, commentary is divided between those who sympathize with the plight of tourists who are many miles from home and others who think being stuck in the sunshine is a lucky boon.
As Linda Kemp, a stranded British holidaymaker, framed it, “Stuck in Sharm el Sheikh for now…Oh well, I shall just continue to sunbathe by [the] pool while young men bring me drinks.”
Stuck in Sharm El Sheikh for now..oh well I shall just continue to sunbathe by pool while young men bring me drinks..— Linda Kemp (@LJconservation) November 5, 2015