For British tourists stuck in Sharm, confusion -- and planes on the way

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Story highlights

  • Some commercial flights still scheduled to leave as usual
  • British government sending empty commercial planes to pick up tourists
  • Vacationer: Mood around the resort has not changed much

(CNN)For thousands of Britons vacationing in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, between sound of the waves, the breeze in the palms and the alarming news reports, the situation is confusing.

Which is why Katrina Marston, a 26-year-old bank employee from Leeds, in northern England, was delighted Thursday to see on EasyJet's website that the flight she and her husband had booked home was still scheduled to take off as usual on Saturday.
"Huge relief," she said. "We should get home OK."

    Airport security, not flying over Sinai, is the concern

    Britain's Foreign & Commonwealth Office estimates that 20,000 British tourists are now in Sharm el-Sheikh, a spokesperson told CNN.
    British tourist Katrina Marston was among those affected by the UK's cancellation of flights back from Sharm el-Sheikh.
    Some of them, like Marston, have been told their flights will depart as scheduled -- despite increasing fears that a Russian airliner fell victim to terrorism when it dropped out of the sky on Saturday. This is despite the British government's having halted flights between the Egyptian resort city and the UK, at least for the moment.
    The British government is sending empty commercial planes to ferry the tourists back home and it expects the process to take 10 days, said the spokesperson, who declined to be named, as is usual for government spokespeople in Britain.
    Asked whether the planes would avoid flying over Sinai, where the Russian plane crashed, the spokesperson gave a clear indication that British officials believe a bomb was slipped onto the plane in Sharm el-Sheikh.
    In other words, a security lapse at the airport.
    "It's not about Sinai," the spokesperson said. "It's about the situation at Sharm el-Sheikh airport itself."

    A temporary halt to UK flights

    According to the official website of British Prime Minister David Cameron, commercial flights have been halted only for the moment.
    According to the statement, issued Wednesday afternoon, there would be no more flights that day so an evaluation of security at the airport could be performed, and the assessment would be completed that same day.
    The message on the Prime Minister's website Thursday afternoon gave no information on how long the flight ban would remain in effect.
    "There is still an investigation taking place in Egypt," the site quoted Cameron as saying. "We need to see the results of that investigation. The reason we have acted before that is because of intelligence and information we had that gave us the concern that it was more likely than not a terrorist bomb."

    'Not very much of a different mood around the resort'

    Despite the uncertainty, Marston, who is on her third visit to Sharm el-Sheikh, said life in the resort had not changed significantly.
    "People come up to us ... saying, 'What's happening, how are you getting home?'" she said. "But there's not been very much of a different mood around the resort."
    She had been monitoring the news for developments about how she and her husband would get back to the UK.
    She said she did not believe the plane crash would deter her from returning to the resort..
    "It depends if the British decide not to fly here to Sharm anymore," she said. "All three times it's been a good experience, even with everything that's happened."