British Airways and easyJet have cancelled all flights between the UK and Sharm el-Sheikh over the busy Christmas period as escalating security concerns and government advice led them to conclude it was not safe to fly to the popular Egyptian resort.
EasyJet said in a statement that following discussions with the Department for Transport it had decided to suspend all fights between the UK and Sharm until January 6 at the earliest. British Airways has decided to cancel all flights until at least January 14.
The low-cost airline said it would look at restarting flights after that date based on government advice. Passengers affected by the cancellation can claim a full refund, a flight voucher or a flight to another destination in its network instead.
It said cancelling all flights until the new year would give customers some certainty as they look ahead to the Christmas holidays. BA said it was cancelling all six flights it runs to the resort. But it pointed out this was only a handful of the more than 5,000 flights it runs worldwide every week.
All flights to Sharm el-Sheikh were put on hold when the British raised concerns about security at the Egyptian airport and said the downing of a Russian passenger plane over Sinai in Egypt on October 31 was likely caused by a bomb.
The Russian government has since said a bomb brought down the Metrojet airliner. All 224 passengers were killed in the crash.
EasyJet shares fell 4 per cent this morning to an almost five-month low of £15.57p a share and were one of the biggest fallers on the FTSE 100. British Airways owner International Consolidated Airlines Group fell 3.7 per cent to 546.7p a share.
In a statement on its website easyJet said: “We are sorry for the inconvenience this will obviously cause, but we hope that being clear with all our customers at this point helps you to manage your plans with more certainty.
“The situation is beyond our control and passenger safety will always be our number one priority.”
All other airlines had suspended flights up to this week with the chance of flights restarting in time for Christmas trips fading fast.
Travel stocks were leading the FTSE 100 lower this morning. InterContinental Hotels, Whitbread and Tui, which owns the Thomson holiday brand, all off more than 2 per cent with the blue-chip index down 54 points, or 0.9 per cent.
Earlier today the US State Department issued a worldwide travel alert to all US citizens warning them of the threat of terrorism, adding to a rising sense of instability and geopolitical tension.
This morning a Russian jet was reportedly shot down by Turkish war planes on the border between Syria and Turkey, ratcheting global tensions further.