The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has chartered a second aircraft on Saturday to fly home Britons stranded in Egypt, due to “the continuing fluidity and unpredictability of the situation” in the country.
Around 180 people were flown home yesterday on a special FCO Boeing 757 charter from Cairo to Gatwick as violence between opponents and supporters of President Hosni Mubarak intensified.
At least eight people have been killed and hundreds injured in clashes in and around Cairo’s Tahrir Square, where pro-government supporters opened fire on protesters on Thursday morning.
“Given the continuing fluidity and unpredictability of the situation in Egypt, the Foreign Office has decided to charter a second plane for British nationals,” the FCO said. “The plane will depart from Cairo on Saturday, and will supplement existing commercial services.”
The FCO added that it would provide further such flights as necessary. The development came as the FCO described the situation in Cairo as “unpredictable”, advising all British nationals to leave the city unless they have a pressing reason to stay.
It added it had a large team on the ground, including significant specialist reinforcements sent in the course of the last week from London and other British Embassies in the region.
“Staff who are not immediately involved in responding to the crisis or helping British nationals are being temporarily removed in line with our travel advice,” it added.
Prime Minister David Cameron joined other European leaders to step up pressure on Mubarak to give up the reins of power after 30 years.
International air charter specialist Air Partner arranged the government’s 757 charter back to Gatwick yesterday (Thursday).
The flight forms part of a four-year contract as the sole provider of passenger and freight air charter services for the Department for International Development.
Members of the government’s Rapid Deployment Team flew to Egypt on the outbound leg. Air Partner will have flown 2,800 people out of Egypt since last Sunday (January 30) on behalf of a wide range of clients.
Passengers have flown in groups ranging from four people to 222. Flights have departed from Cairo, Luxor, Alexandria and Hurghada to a range of destinations including the UK, Dubai, Bahrain, France and Germany.
A variety of aircraft have been used from Hawker 900XP and Embraer Legacy private jets to commercial airliners such as Airbus A320s and Boeing 737s.
Air Partner UK commercial jets manager Suzanne Sharp said: “The current situation at Cairo Airport is very fluid but we are utilising our contacts and the strength of our relationships with operators, airport authorities and ground handling companies to ensure we can give robust support to our clients.”
Chief executive Mark Briffa added: “Multinationals want to get their staff out as quickly as possible and are having to find other solutions to scheduled flights.
“We are flying major oil companies, financial institutions, supermarket chains and telecommunications, confectionary and travel conglomerates.”
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