Jeddah, Asharq Al-Awsat – A Saudi Arabian Airlines official informed Asharq Al-Awsat that a total of 21,000 Saudi citizens had left Egypt, returning to Saudi Arabia on a total of 75 airplanes since the start of the unrest in Egypt. The official also revealed that the last batch of Saudi Arabian returnees had departed from Egypt on a fleet of 8 airplanes on Wednesday. A Saudi citizen who spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity claimed that 5 Saudi Arabian families had paid for these tickets.
Saudi Arabian Airlines spokesman Abdullah al-Ajhar confirmed that “the company sent a supervisor from Jeddah operations to participate in operations [in Cairo], whilst Saudi Arabian Airlines Director-General Khalid Almohlem visited the Egyptian capital yesterday with the Cairo-branch director of operations to make sure that operations there are running smoothly.”
As for media reports that some Saudi Arabian Airlines staff have demanded fees from passengers attempting to flee the unrest in Egypt in order to facilitate their departure, al-Ajhar strenuously denied this and told Asharq Al-Awsat that all of those who reach the airport and coordinate with the Saudi Arabian embassy are able to leave the country immediately.
Some media outlets have carried news of some Saudi Arabian Airlines staff members exploiting the situation in Egypt by demanding money for facilitating travel. Responding to this, the Saudi Arabian embassy issued a statement to Asharq Al-Awsat saying “tell us the name of the man allegedly responsible for this, and we will investigate this.”
Hassan al-Buhairi, spokesman for the Saudi Arabian embassy in Egypt said “I have heard about this via a number of satellite channels…and I comprehensively deny that this took place.”
The Saudi Arabian embassy in Cairo has also established an operations room to monitor the situation in the country and ensure around the clock protection for Saudi nationals across Egypt, as well as to deal with emergency requests and assist and facilitate those wishing to leave the country and return to Saudi Arabia.
The statement issued by the Saudi Arabian embassy in Cairo also revealed that “the embassy has provided rooms and reception halls for Saudi nationals in one of the hotels (Marriott Hotel) located along the airport road.”
An official at the Saudi Arabian embassy in Cairo told Asharq Al-Awsat that “as of yesterday [Wednesday], the majority of Saudi Arabians wanting to leave the country have departed, in coordination with the Saudi embassy.”
As for what has been described as “chaos” with regards to the Saudi Arabian embassy facilitating the departure of Saudi citizens from Egypt on Sunday, the embassy official rejected this saying “”it is natural for there to be [travel] chaos in the early days….however the majority of Saudi citizens that wanted to leave the country left in a fluent manner.”