Governments, airlines and tour operators worked together to fly their nationals out of Egypt where protesters pressed their campaign to topple President Hosni Mubarak.
The US State Department said that more than 220 US citizens had been evacuated so far from Egypt, and that more than 2,400 Americans had requested assistance to leave.
It said it hoped to bring 900 US citizens out of Egypt on Monday with flights departing for Athens, Cyprus and Istanbul. Up to 52 000 Americans are registered with the embassy in Cairo.
European airlines, including Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines and Air Berlin said they were sending larger aircraft than usual to Egypt to meet demand and had agreed additional flights with foreign ministries, Reuters reports.
Air Partner, which brokers charter aircraft, said it was working round the clock to help companies ranging from oil firms to supermarkets and telecoms groups to get employees out.
“By the close of business today, we will have flown 800 people out of Egypt on 14 flights to a range of safe havens, including Dubai, the US and Europe,” it said in a statement.
Officials in Turkey and Cyprus said they were making contingency plans to receive tourists evacuated from Egypt and speed them on to their destinations.
Witnesses reported scenes of chaos at Cairo Airport on Sunday, with many people, including Egyptians, scrambling to get on a decreasing number of scheduled flights.
National carrier EgyptAir has cancelled flights for overnight on Tuesday, according to state television.
The US State Department on Twitter advised Americans to prepare for a “substantial” wait at the airport and to bring food, water and other necessities.
“We had to cut our trip short. We’ve been waiting for 48 hours to get on the plane, very much anxious to go back home,” said an elderly US passenger arriving at Athens airport.
Alistair Burt, the British minister for the Middle East and North Africa told parliament the situation at the airport had eased from Sunday and that while the majority of British nationals had been able to leave the airport, 30 would remain there overnight.
Egypt’s tourism sector is one of the top sources of foreign revenue, accounting for more than 11 percent of GDP, and offers jobs in a country beset by high unemployment. In 2009, about 12.5 million tourists visited Egypt, bringing revenue of $10.8 billion.
The German Foreign Ministry issued a travel warning late on Sunday for Cairo, Alexandria and Suez, but described the situation at Red Sea resorts as calm for the moment.
German tour operator Rewe, with 3,100 customers in Egypt at present, advised customers booked on holidays to Egypt over the next week to cancel to relieve pressure on the infrastructure.
Britain advised against travel to Luxor, prompting tour operators TUI and Thomas Cook to cancel flights there.
Turkey said it was sending two Turkish Airlines planes to Egypt to evacuate Turkish nationals, while Greece said it had military aircraft on standby.
Other countries advised their citizens to leave Egypt or avoid travelling to major cities.
Greece said it had stepped up police and coastguard controls at sea and land borders to be ready for any influx of immigrants from Egypt. The southern Greek island of Crete is just a few hundred kilometres from Egypt.
Egypt’s tourism industry, which provides about one in eight jobs in the country, took a hit in 1997 when gunmen killed 58 tourists and four Egyptians at a temple in Luxor, and after the September 11 attacks. But dips in tourist numbers had previously been temporary, and the trend has been upward for a decade.
Among the European companies to announce they had evacuated staff and families were energy groups such as BP, telcoms firm Nokia Siemens Networks and food giant Nestle.
Automakers Daimler, BMW and Nissan said they had shut down operations at plants in the country, while Volkswagen said it halted deliveries.
One of Europe’s largest retailers, Germany’s Metro also said two of its stores in Egypt had been looted.