Page last updated at 19:30 GMT, Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Britons moved from Thai airport


Stranded British tourists: 'What can you do?'

British travellers have been evacuated from Bangkok international airport in Thailand, the Foreign Office has said.

The airport was forced to close after being occupied by protesters who are calling on the Thai government to quit.

At least 3,000 passengers were left stranded but the Thai authorities have been transferring people to hotels.

The Foreign Office said it did not believe there were any Britons left at the airport. Journeys are expected to resume in the next couple of days.

British travel association Abta said airlines and travel operators would be making arrangements for customers who found themselves stuck in Thailand to leave the country.

'Frustrated and tired'

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has been monitoring the situation and has had a team of consular staff at the airport helping UK citizens.

The airport is a major international hub and the blockade is affecting all those wanting to fly in and out of Bangkok. It is not known exactly how many Britons have been affected by the siege.

Briton Rachel Kyte spent 13 hours at the airport before eventually catching a taxi to a hotel in the Thai capital on Wednesday afternoon.

She had been awaiting a connection to Washington DC, where she now lives.

There's a lot of angry people, some sick, needing to get home
Ian Richards
British traveller

The World Bank worker said the lack of information and rumours of unrest had been fuelling the tense atmosphere.

"We were being kept in the lounge on the ground floor level," she said. "The protesters were on the floor above.

"There is the possibility the airport may run out of water and supplies. The people I feel sorry for are the families with babies, and the elderly and disabled travellers.

"People were starting to get frustrated and tired. It only takes one person to lose their cool and it can become a crowd mentality."

Ian Richards, 26, from Basingstoke, said he was being put on a bus to a hotel in Pattaya, a beach resort about 100 miles (165km) south of Bangkok.

Mr Richards, who is heading to Australia, had been at the airport for seven hours and had passed through immigration.

"Most people are being taken to hotels," he said. "I have no idea what happens after that. No one seems to know what is happening but it is a lot calmer than it was before.

"There's a lot of angry people, some sick, needing to get home."

'Gunpoint check'

Hannah Simons, from London, was due to fly to Mumbai but she is stuck in Bangkok, unable to get near the airport.

The 53-year-old Hebrew teacher said she was "desperate".

"I am calling the airport every minute but it is engaged," she said. "No-one wants to take responsibility, not the travel agent nor the airline.

We are paying for hotels for customers and keeping them informed
British Airways spokesman

"I had paid a taxi in advance to pick me up this morning but it never arrived. No taxi will take us to the airport.

"The protesters checked my friend's luggage at gunpoint - they wanted to make sure he wasn't from the other side."

Mark Conneely told the BBC he had managed to get one of the last flights out of Bangkok.

He was told to stay in his hotel but had been willing to take the risk of heading to the airport.

"The scene was very scary, very hairy," he said. "There was an awful lot of people basically shouting."

An Abta spokesman said tour operators had been trying to contact British customers who were due to fly to Bangkok.

If the situation continued alternative arrangements would be made, he added.

Incoming flights have been diverted to other Thai airports, including Chiang Mai and Phuket.

'Very uncertain'

British Airways is using Singapore airport as an alternative or offering refunds to people who no longer wish to travel to Bangkok.

A BA spokesman claimed only a small number of the airline's passengers were caught up in the airport closure, saying: "The timing of our flights both north and south out of Bangkok meant that we had very few customers in the airport at the time of the incident.

"We are paying for hotels for customers and keeping them informed."

The FCO website described the political situation in Thailand as "very uncertain" and advised those heading to Bangkok to check with their airline or tour operator before travelling.

The protesters, from the People's Alliance for Democracy, want to topple Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat, who had been due to arrive at the airport from an overseas trip. However, his flight will be diverted to another airport.

The BBC's Jonathan Head in Bangkok said the protesters had now taken full control of Suvarnabhumi airport, seizing the control tower and blocking access roads.

He said there was utter confusion at the airport, although the yellow-shirted demonstrators had been relaxed in dealing with tourists.

He added that a series of small explosions among the protesters early on Wednesday morning had injured several and underlined the risk of more violent clashes with pro-government groups.

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