Airport chaos as exodus continues


Passengers wait for check-in at Cairo's international airport (AP)

The exodus of foreigners from Cairo has continued as dozens of evacuation planes arrived, but the airport itself was still in disarray with crowds of more than 4,500 stranded passengers.

Passengers said airport staff were scarce, food supplies were dwindling, flight information was non-existent and some claimed police were even demanding bribes before allowing foreigners to board their planes.

At least 18 charter flights had left Cairo early on Tuesday morning, ferrying more than 1,500 foreigners to European locations, said an airport official.

The United States sent in nine charter flights on Monday to Cairo and more were planned.

National carrier EgyptAir has been cancelling about 75% of its flights because it is unable to field the necessary crew amid the 17-hour emergency curfew imposed on the Egyptian capital. Even having a ticket was no guarantee that tourists could get on a flight.

“People holding tickets had difficulties getting on the plane, because the airport in Cairo is pure chaos,” Canadian tourist Tristin Hutton said after his plane landed at Germany’s Frankfurt airport.

“The terminals are full of panicking people. The ground staff is disappearing, and at the gate, just before entering, we all together had to collect 2,000 US dollars (£1,240) for a policeman at the door… He would not let us pass without paying,” added the 44-year-old.

The US State Department said it has evacuated more than 1,200 Americans aboard government-chartered planes and expects to fly out roughly 1,400 more in the coming days.

Tens of thousands of European tourists flock to Egypt for winter holidays, and the big question tour operators and governments now face is what to do with tourists in other parts of Egypt like the Red Sea holiday resorts of Hurghada and Sharm el-Sheik.

The German government has extended its travel advice, warning its citizens against visiting any part of the country – including the Red Sea resorts.

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