- Associated Press - Saturday, January 29, 2011

CAIRO (AP) — Cairo airport officials say several Arab nations have organized additional flights to take their nationals and families of diplomats out of Egypt because of the violence and unrest roiling the country.

The officials said Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Lebanon and Jordan are the countries that have arranged flights out.

They also said as many as 3,000 people have been stranded at the airport Saturday, at least half of whom were travelers whose flights arrived after the government imposed curfew.

The other half included Egyptians and foreigners who had been scrambling to flee the country only to find that several airlines had either canceled, delayed or suspended their flights.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

CAIRO (AP) — Hundreds of people crowded the capital’s main international airport hoping for a flight out on Saturday but Western carriers were canceling, delaying or suspending service after days of violent unrest.

A British airline turned around its Cairo-bound jet in mid-flight.

Between 1,500 and 2,000 people flocked to Cairo Intentional Airport, many without reservations. Officials said that about half were tourists and half Egyptians.

British Midlands International said its flight from London Heathrow to Cairo turned around because a shift in the start of a nighttime curfew from 6 p.m. to 4 p.m. had made it impossible to land in time for passengers to make it out of the airport.

The United States, France and Germany issued warnings to their respective citizens, urging them to cancel nonessential travel to Cairo and to remain indoors and away from flashpoint areas if they were already in the country.

Israeli carrier El Al was trying to arrange a special flight Saturday to take roughly 200 Israeli tourists out of the country, a Cairo International Airport official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media. Israel’s embassy in Egypt declined to comment.

British Airways, meanwhile, modified its departure time so flights would not arrive in Cairo during the curfew hours. BA also said it would send a charter plane to Egypt to move passengers wanting to leave.

The flight disruptions threatened to undercut one of Egypt’s key foreign revenue generators — tourism, which accounts for about 11 percent of Egypt’s gross domestic product. Tourism brought in over $9 billion for Egypt in the first nine months of 2010 and $10.8 billion the year before.

So far, the protests appear to have mainly affected travel plans to Cairo, while the Red Sea resorts favored by the Europeans and Russians who make up the majority of foreign tourists to Egypt were unaffected.

Story Continues →