Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

Lift Sharm el Sheikh flight ban, demand MPs

Exclusive: Monarch Airlines collapse blamed on inability to fly to Egypt's premier resort

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Tuesday 03 October 2017 21:06 BST
Grounded: There have been calls for an inquiry into the collapse of Monarch
Grounded: There have been calls for an inquiry into the collapse of Monarch (REUTERS)

End the ban on British flights to Sharm el Sheikh or risk further airline failures: following the collapse of Monarch, that is the message from MPs and the Egyptian ambassador.

Monarch, which failed in the early hours of Monday morning, had been very badly hit by the Foreign Office prohibition on UK airlines flying to Sharm el Sheikh.

The ban was brought in five days after a crash in October 2015 – 224 people died when their Metrojet charter flight from Sharm el Sheikh to St Petersburg in Russia crashed in the Sinai desert. It is thought that a bomb was placed on board at the Egyptian airport.

The UK Government took the unprecedented step of banning British airlines from flying from the Red Sea airport until a team of security experts is satisfied with the standards in place.

Monarch was heavily committed to Sharm el Sheikh, a destination that provided the airline with healthy year-round business.

In his letter to staff telling them of the airline’s shutdown, Monarch’s chief executive, Andrew Swaffield, said: “The root cause is the closure, due to terrorism, of Sharm el Sheikh and Tunisia and the decimation of Turkey.”

There is no warning against travel to Sharm el Sheikh itself, just to the airport. But the effect of the ban has been to end British package tourism to Egypt’s leading resort.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Egypt is calling for immediate action to reopen the route, saying: “Monarch’s collapse shows that the ban is not only having a devastating effect on the Egyptian economy, but also damaging the British economy.

“If we do not want to hear of further similar stories, it is vital that the flight ban be lifted as soon as possible.

Monarch collapse: What should customers do now?

The group has been calling for an end to the Sharm el Sheikh travel ban for over a year, since a visit to the airport in July 2016.

“The Egyptian government and hotel groups have spent over £20m to ensure that Sharm el Sheikh is now one of the safest airports in the Middle East and meets the demands laid out by the British Government in 2015,” says the group.

Egypt’s ambassador to the UK, Nasser Kamel, said: “The pain which will be felt across Britain following Monarch’s collapse is shared by many in Egypt. Scores of hotels have been forced to close down in the resort and thousands of workers have been laid off as a result of the ban.

“I hope that this tragic development might encourage the British government to consider lifting the flight ban as soon as possible.”

The Foreign Office says: “We will continue working with the Egyptian Authorities to enable regular flights between the UK and Sharm el Sheikh to resume.

“We are also liaising with travel companies so that they are able to resume flights and holidays in Sharm el Sheikh as soon as appropriate security arrangements are in place.”

Rumours in the travel industry strongly suggest that David Cameron was preparing to lift the ban last summer, but his resignation as Prime Minister and the ensuing political chaos took Sharm el Sheikh off the agenda.

In July the ban on travel to Tunisia, which had been in force for two years, was lifted by the Foreign Office.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in