Published on Wednesday, October 30, 2019

TUI expected to delay Sharm re-launch until next year


TUI is not expected to re-launch flights to Sharm el Sheikh until mid-February next year despite the Foreign Office lifting its four-year-long flying ban.

Immediately the ban was lifted, TUI said it would re-introduce the popular Red Sea resort, but it has not yet confirmed when its flying programme will re-start.

It is understood to be struggling to find suitable aircraft to operate the route at short notice due to the continued grounding of its 15 Boeing MAX 8 aircraft.

A further eight MAX jets were due to join TUI's fleet in May this year, but Boeing has yet to give a date when the aircraft will be back in the air.

As a result, TUI is expected to delay the re-launch of flights to Sharm until mid-February 2020, when it will offer five or six charters a week.

So far only Red Sea Holidays has announced its flying programme to Sharm, which happened within four hours of the Foreign Office announcement that it was lifting its flying ban on October 22.

It has chartered aircraft with Enter Air from Gatwick and Birmingham, starting on December 22.

Executive director Peter Kearns said business had been good, so far. "The fact that we are the only ones selling Sharm is good for us. We are getting lots of bookings at the moment, but the lack of other operators isn't necessarily good for the market, it needs more flights going in.

"I'm sure TUI will go back to Sharm, it's a good destination for them, but I've also heard it won't be until next February.

"Thomas Cook has left a gaping hole in the market, TUI has lots to do in terms of re-shaping their programme to pickup as much of that business as they can and for the time being they'll be focused on destinations like Spain.

"Sourcing aircraft is also difficult at the moment, since Thomas Cook's planes are still grounded.

"We were working on sourcing aircraft before Thomas Cook collapsed, so we were able to move our customers to other flights, but the rest of the market was caught a little.

"The Max grounding has also had a massive impact."

Red Sea Holidays is working on a joint promotion with the Egyptian tourist office in London, which Kearns said is hoping will be approved 'within the next few days'.

This will be focused around London and the Midlands, where it has flights, but Kearns said a big national campaign is needed to raise awareness that Sharm is back on sale.

Speaking to TravelMole last week, Amr El Ezabi, UK and Ireland director for the Egyptian State Tourist Authority said hopefully Red Sea Holidays' first flights will prove there is demand, adding that he heard unconfirmed reports that other UK operators would relaunch programmes 'not much later than within three months'.

Other operators that have confirmed their intention to add Sharm include Olympic Holidays, and easyJet said it was considering relaunching flights.

A TUI spokeswoman said: "Sharm el Sheikh was always a popular holiday destination with our customers and we welcome the change in travel advice by the UK government. We will reintroduce Sharm el Sheikh, taking into account customer demand, and will now work closely with our hotel and airport partners so we can confirm more details in due course."

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