Chartered flights should ensure HK tourists arrive home safely today

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 02 February, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 02 February, 2011, 12:00am

All Hong Kong tourists stranded in Egypt will return today after several chartered flights were arranged by Beijing and Egypt.

About 270 were in the country, 60 of them in Cairo and 210 in the southern city of Luxor.

A group of 19 tourists in Cairo declined the chartered flight and returned aboard a scheduled flight.

The rest of those in the capital registered with the Chinese embassy to board the chartered flights sent by Beijing, but later decided to fly to Bangkok and on to Hong Kong on their own because they were reportedly unsure when the chartered flights would take off.

Of those in Luxor, about 160 took a chartered flight arranged by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The rest made their own travel arrangements, Lai said.

The aircraft, an A330 belonging to China Southern Airlines, left from Guangzhou for Luxor yesterday, and is expected to land in Hong Kong this afternoon.

'Thanks to co-ordination between the central and Egyptian governments, the chartered flight will fly from Luxor to Hong Kong directly,' undersecretary for security Lai Tung-kwok said.

The previous plan was to first send the citizens from Luxor to Cairo - more than 700 kilometres away - because there were no direct flights between Luxor and Hong Kong and it was difficult to arrange a direct chartered flight. But Chinese embassy officials in Cairo went to Luxor to arrange the flight, a Hong Kong official said.

'We are grateful for the central government's quick support,' Lai said. Holders of Hong Kong or British National (Overseas) passports could use the flight.

In addition, four Hongkongers were aboard one of four chartered flights that arrived in Guangzhou last night.

The government has contacted several individual travellers from Hong Kong who will take one of the flights.

Lai said the flights should have enough seats to bring all Hongkongers back home.

He also addressed concerns about whether public money would be used to pay for the 270 Hongkongers' return trip.

'We understand the public's concern, and agree that the flight shouldn't be paid by public money but by those who use it,' he said.

The government first issued an 'amber' travel warning for Egypt on Friday and replaced it with the higher 'red' warning soon after 1pm on Saturday.

It was raised to the highest 'black' warning at 6pm on Sunday, and advised people to avoid going to Egypt under present conditions.