Mon, Aug 14, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Chaos at UK airports likely to continue


Airlines canceled almost a third of flights from Britain's busiest airport yesterday, plunging travelers into a fourth day of travel chaos triggered by the foiling of an alleged airplane bomb plot.

British Airways said it had scrapped 30 percent of flights from London's Heathrow Airport on the instructions of the airport operator British Airports Authority (BAA).

The airport operator said 70 percent of flights on all airlines at Heathrow were expected to operate, but warned that tough new screening measures for passengers and luggage meant that delays were inevitable.

Tony Douglas, BAA's chief executive for Heathrow, said the airport was doing its best, but that delays "will go on until the security threat level is reduced."

British Home Secretary John Reid said the security measures would have to be altered.

"The present regime is time limited," Reid told BBC television. "We know it is not indefinitely sustainable."

In the wake of the foiled plot, authorities introduced tough new security measures, including individual searches of all passengers and a ban on carry-on luggage except clear plastic bags containing travel documents and a few essential items.

Reid said Transport Secretary Douglas Alexander had asked US Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff to ease the restrictions imposed by the US, which include a ban on passengers carrying liquids aboard flights.

Yesterday, British Airways canceled almost 100 flights to Europe from Heathrow and scrapped all its domestic flights from London's second airport, Gatwick. Most long-haul flights were operating, although 10 BA services to the US were canceled.

Some airlines accused BAA of failing to cope with tough new anti-terror security requirements.

"The airport's baggage system cannot process all of the passengers' bags and where passengers have been able to check their bags in, the lengthy queues in the airport security search area means that passengers are unable to get to the departure gate in time for their flight," BA chief executive Willie Walsh said.

Budget carrier Ryanair appealed to the British government to use police and army reservists to speed up searches at overloaded airport security checkpoints.

Meanwhile, questions are being raised in the US about whether there are enough airport screeners to do the added work.

The US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is limited by law to have 45,000 screeners.

The TSA is updating its Web site as it clarifies which liquids and gels are banned.

On Saturday, the TSA added mascara, but not lipstick, to the list of banned items. Gel shoe inserts are banned, but shoes with gel embedded in the heel are not.

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