London Heathrow Airport

This article details the security reaction to the 2006 alleged transatlantic aircraft plot.

United Kingdom[edit | edit source]

Following the raids, the terror alert level was raised by Britain's Joint Terrorist Analysis Centre from 'severe' to 'critical', signalling an attack was believed to be imminent, although this was only done after the raid.[1] Security at all British airports was raised to the highest level, with all luggage having to go into the aircraft's hold (including books, newspapers, and glasses cases). In the immediate aftermath, no hand luggage (carry-on luggage) was allowed except for a very few essentials such as travel documents and wallets. Passengers travelling with small children were permitted to carry baby food but had to taste it in front of staff.[2]

On 14 August 2006, the threat level was reduced from 'Critical' to 'Severe'.[3] An announcement was made that the hand baggage rules would shortly be alleviated to permit carriage of one small item of hand baggage, although the strict ban on liquids remained in place.[4] Hand baggage was reintroduced at some smaller airports on 14 August, but was not permitted at Heathrow and Gatwick Airports until 15 August.

Despite having made it clear in August that the unprecedented security measures were "here to stay", at the end of September, upon pressure from the industry representatives and professional musicians, the British government relaxed the restrictions on size to the aviation industry standard (56 cm × 45 cm × 25 cm) and allowed musical instruments as carry-on luggage.[5][6]

On 6 November 2006 the restrictions were relaxed once again to allow limited amounts of liquids in the cabin.[7]

In November 2007, Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly announced that from 8 January 2008, British airports will be able to allow more than one item of hand luggage on board. This was following criticism in October by the shadow transport secretary Theresa Villiers, who said that because of the restrictive rules, Heathrow was "rapidly becoming a national embarrassment". Chief executive of British Airways Willie Walsh was also critical, saying that they are "damaging the UK's reputation around the world from a business perspective".[8]

United States[edit | edit source]

Following the operation, United States Homeland Security banned all liquids and gels except baby formula and prescription medications in the name of the ticket holder in carry-on luggage on all flights.[9] The DHS level in the United States was raised to 'severe' (red) for all flights from the UK. The terror level for all other domestic or non-British international flights in the United States was raised to High (orange). According to White House Press Secretary Tony Snow, President Bush was aware of the plot by 6 August and approved raising the alert on 9 August.[10]

Other countries[edit | edit source]

  • Australia – Qantas began to implement tighter security checks, which would initially only apply to flights heading to the US and the UK, but Prime Minister John Howard mentioned that it could lead to a permanent ban of certain hand luggage in the near future.[11]
  • Barbados – Plane traffic delays affected many airports across the world including the Grantley Adams International Airport located in Barbados. After immediately instituting a policy of heightened security, the delays have affected many tourists including British Prime Minister Tony Blair's attempts to cut his Caribbean holiday short and return to the United Kingdom.[12]
  • Belgium – The Belgian Federal Police, coordinating its efforts with the British and French governments, increased security on the Eurostar rail line that connects London with Paris and Brussels.[13]
  • Canada – Transport Canada, though unaware of any specific threat, nevertheless restricted all liquid and gel items from hand luggage on departing flights. Exceptions were made for approved baby formula and prescription medication. In addition, all passengers travelling to the United States were subject to having their footwear examined.[14]
  • Finland – Finland's national airline Finnair cancelled two of its flights to London Heathrow on Thursday and one from Heathrow to Helsinki on Sunday, the remaining flights only had slight delays. Other airlines flying to and from Finland have experienced only delays. Passengers are forbidden to carry anything more than personal documents and wallets in flights to Britain.[15][16]
  • Hong Kong – Airport authority at the Chek Lap Kok airport have advised passengers going to the United States to arrive three hours before their scheduled flight in order to pass through tighter security checks.[11] Hong Kong Government reminds Hongkongers in the United Kingdom to keep abreast of latest developments and pay attention to personal safety.[17]
  • India – Indian airports have been put under high alert and hand-baggage screenings have been tightened. Surveillance has also been stepped up. Incoming flights from the United Kingdom are facing delays due to greater checks.[18]
  • Ireland – The National Civil Aviation Security Committee, which advises the Irish Government, met to review the situation. Irish Minister for Transport Martin Cullen said there is no increased security risk at Irish airports.[19]
  • Japan – Though airport security was not heightened, Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airlines began to strictly prohibit liquid items from its planes.[11]
  • Netherlands – The Dutch government said the UK terror plot would have no effect to the threat level in the country and would remain at "substantial" and "low" for Schiphol.[20]
  • New Zealand – Additional security restrictions were placed on passengers departing from New Zealand to the UK, and there were some flight delays; however, none were cancelled.[21] In order to maintain the heightened security, thirty-two extra security staff supported by sniffer dogs were brought in to man three extra security lanes at Auckland Airport.[22]
  • Norway – The Norwegian government will not change the threat level and it remains at Low.[23]
  • Pakistan – The Pakistani government made several arrests in response to the plot. Foreign Office spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam stated, "In fact, Pakistan played a very important role in uncovering and breaking this international terrorist network".[24]
  • Philippines – Authorities at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport have placed its airports on heightened alert. NAIA representatives have stated that all U.S.-bound flights have prohibited passengers from bringing liquid items on board.[11]
  • South Korea – The government has put Incheon International Airport on heightened alert following the foiled terrorist plot. All passengers are undergoing additional screening and all U.S.- and UK-bound flights are prohibited from carrying any liquids on flights. Furthermore, passengers en route to the US will have their belongings searched before boarding their flight. Korea’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority of the Ministry of Construction and Transportation raised the security level from green (ordinary) to blue (concerned) and then to yellow (caution). A yellow alert indicates intelligence suggesting a threat to aviation.[25][26]
  • Republic of China (Taiwan) – Taipei heightened security measures on U.S.- and UK-bound flights. All ROC airlines banned UK- and U.S.-bound passengers from taking "large carry-on luggage on board. Liquids like hair gel, suntan lotion, perfume, shampoo, toothpaste and beverages also had to be checked in and not carried on board."[27]

Hand luggage restrictions[edit | edit source]

United Kingdom[edit | edit source]

Passengers travelling from[28] and through all other UK airports were temporarily only permitted to carry-on those items on a restricted list, and these items had to be carried in transparent plastic bags. No liquids could be carried on board.[4][29] Liquid medications, such as insulin for diabetics, were banned, "unless verified as authentic." All laptops, mobile phones, digital audio players and other electronic items were also banned.[30]

It was suggested in The Times that the restrictions on hand baggage would be "enforced pending a decision from the National Aviation Security Committee following which they may be made permanent."[31] This was confirmed by sources close to Douglas Alexander, the Secretary of State for Transport, on BBC News.[32]

On 14 August 2006, an announcement was made that the restrictions on hand baggage for flights originating in the UK would shortly be liberalised to permit carriage of one small (45 cm × 35 cm × 16 cm) piece of hand baggage per person. Whilst electronics, books, and other dry items were again permitted on flights leaving the UK, all liquids remained banned in hand luggage.[4]

United States[edit | edit source]

Similar emergency restrictions were placed on airline passengers traveling within and from the United States. Initially, all liquids were forbidden, including beverages, hair gels, toothpaste, lipstick, sunscreen, and hand lotions, due to the suspicion that liquid chemicals were planned to be used in the attacks.[9] Electronic devices (iPods, laptops, etc.) were still allowed for domestic flights.[33]

3-1-1 for carry-ons[edit | edit source]

As of 26 September 2006, the Transportation Security Administration adjusted the ban on liquids, aerosols and gels. Travellers are permitted to carry liquids through security checkpoints in containers of 3.4 ounces (100 mL) or less that fit comfortably in one quart-size clear plastic zip-top bag. This procedure came to be known as "3-1-1 for carry-ons" (3.4 ounce containers in a 1 quart bag, 1 bag per passenger). Items purchased in the airside zone after clearing security could be brought on board without restriction. Other exemptions to this restriction include medications and breast milk.[34]

European Union[edit | edit source]

On 10 October 2006 a European Union Regulation placed restrictions to carry liquid materials in hand luggage across the EU.[35]

Japan[edit | edit source]

On 1 March 2007, The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport also set out new regulations concerning the carriage of liquids in carry-on luggage for international flights. Passengers travelling abroad from Japan are required to place liquids less than 100ml into a transparent resealable bag not exceeding 20 cm × 20 cm. Any liquids over 100ml are forbidden.[36]

Worldwide[edit | edit source]

Subsequently, similar restrictions for liquids in carry on luggage were set out in many other countries worldwide including Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Vietnam, China and Singapore who all set out liquid restrictions on international flights. Thailand and India only imposed these restrictions on international and domestic flights.[37]

Impact[edit | edit source]

As many as 20,000 bags are believed to have been misplaced at Heathrow in the days following the flight cancellations.[38]

Flight cancellations on the 10 August[edit | edit source]

Some inbound flights to London Heathrow Airport were cancelled on the day of the arrests, most notably the Thursday short-haul flights of British Airways. Some flights to and from London Gatwick Airport were also suspended,[39] although US Airways flights continued flying normally from Gatwick according to the airline's helpline.

Service resumption[edit | edit source]

File:IMG 2558 Tents exterior Heathrow 14 august 2006.JPG

Tents on the car park in front of terminal 4. Heathrow, 14 August

On Sunday 13 August 30% of flights out of Heathrow were cancelled to reduce pressure on the screeners.[40] By 15 August flight cancellations had fallen to 47 flights at Heathrow, and 8 Ryanair flights from Stansted. It was anticipated that cancellations would reduce on 16 August, with 90% of flights expected to depart as scheduled.[41]

Controversy over the alert[edit | edit source]

On 12 August a public argument broke out between BAA, the operator of Heathrow and other airports, and British Airways, with Willie Walsh, BA's Chief Executive, accusing BAA of not being able to cope with the increased security and baggage checks. Ryanair also called on the British government to employ police and military reservists to speed up the full body searches which were now mandated, with Chief Executive Michael O'Leary saying that:

Ryanair and other major UK airlines cannot keep cancelling flights and disrupting the travel plans of tens of thousands of British passengers and visitors solely because the BAA cannot cope with the new body search requirements. If the British government is serious about defeating terrorism and/or not allowing the terrorists to disrupt normal everyday British life, then it must provide the additional security staffing, either police or army reserve personnel, immediately to prevent London's main airports from grinding to a halt over the coming days.[42]

On 18 August Ryanair's O'Leary delivered an ultimatum to the British government demanding the resumption of normal hand baggage dimensions and hand screening one passenger in four instead of one in two within one week, otherwise Ryanair would sue the Government for compensation under section 93 of the Transport Act 2000. The government responded that the actions were taken under the Aviation Security Act 1982, and no compensation was payable.[43]

Several pilots have complained about the "ridiculous" luggage restrictions that was thought up by "utter morons", the Sunday Herald reported. Carolyn Evans, head of flight safety at the British Airline Pilots Association, said that "the procedures put in place are not sustainable long term, and unless the passengers are treated more reasonably we will not have an industry left".[44]

Economic effects[edit | edit source]

The Times commented the day after the arrests, that the economic effects were minor and that the FTSE 100 index showed only "mild signs of strain", suggesting that terror was already priced into assets, that the market impact will be contained, and that "what is lost on the swings may be gained on the roundabouts". It observed that the real commercial risk is that "people's behaviour is altered... change may come so subtly and subconsciously that it is hard to see, let alone measure… people may stop travelling for example, not because they are scared of being blown up, but because they are tired of complying with necessary security measures."[45]

Estimates have also been made of the cost to airlines of their disrupted business. British Airways had to cancel 1280 flights, at a cost of £40 million.[46] Ryanair had to cancel 500 flights[citation needed], and are suing the UK government for the £3.3 million the cancellations cost them.[47] Easyjet had to cancel 469 flights, at a cost of about £4 million.[48] BAA says the alert cost them £13 million.[49]

BA is considering making a claim for compensation against BAA, which operates Heathrow, for its failure to provide adequate security services and shortages of personnel during the crisis.[citation needed] The Civil Aviation Authority has just commenced its five-yearly review of operation of the airport, and it is likely that BAA's ability to handle the security alert will now become part of that review.[50] The combined airline losses may have totalled £250 million.[51]

Air passengers also switched to other means of travel. Sea France ferry company operating from Dover to Calais announced that it had beaten its all-time record for number of passengers carried in one week,[citation needed] while Eurostar found that at the peak of the alert it was receiving 10 bookings per minute for immediate travel.[52]

Other responses[edit | edit source]

  • BAA advised passengers not to travel to Heathrow unless their journey was "essential", and long delays were expected by outbound passengers.[53]
  • Houses in and around Walton Drive in High Wycombe, where one house was raided, were evacuated.[54]

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. "Details emerge on alleged plot to bomb airliners". MSNBC. 10 August 2006. Archived from the original on 21 February 2011. Retrieved 19 February 2009. 
  2. "At-a-glance: UK airports". BBC News. 11 August 2006. Archived from the original on 5 February 2009. Retrieved 19 February 2009. 
  3. "Threat level lowered to 'Severe'" (Press release). Home Office. 13 August 2006. Archived from the original on 22 February 2011. Retrieved 18 February 2009. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 "Airline security". Department for Transport. 10 August 2006. Archived from the original on 12 August 2006. Retrieved 20 February 2009. 
  5. Woodward, Will (14 September 2006). "Relaxation of plane hand luggage restrictions delights musicians". The Guardian (London). Archived from the original on 22 February 2011. Retrieved 18 February 2009. 
  6. "Hand luggage rules to be relaxed". BBC News. 21 September 2006. Archived from the original on 22 February 2011. Retrieved 18 February 2009. 
  7. "Baggage advice for UK passengers". BBC News. 14 November 2007. Archived from the original on 22 February 2011. Retrieved 19 February 2009. 
  8. "One-bag air travel rule relaxed". BBC News. 14 November 2007. Retrieved 19 February 2009. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 "Terror Threat: New Security Measures at U.S., UK Airports". Fox News Channel. 10 August 2006. Archived from the original on 22 February 2011.,2933,207765,00.html. Retrieved 21 February 2009. 
  10. "Press Gaggle by Tony Snow" (Press release). White House Press Secretary. 10 August 2006. Retrieved 19 February 2009. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 "Asian airports tighten security". International Herald Tribune. 11 August 2006. Retrieved 20 February 2009. 
  12. "New security measures and long delays for international travelers at GAI". Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation. 10 August 2006. Retrieved 20 February 2009. [dead link]
  13. de Waard, Peter (10 August 2006). "Luchtverkeer ontregeld na Brits terreuralarm" (in Dutch). de Volkskrant. Retrieved 20 February 2009. 
  14. "Bank of England releases names of bomb plot suspects". CBC News. 10 August 2006. Retrieved 20 February 2009. 
  15. "Air Traffic Back to Normal After Terror Scare". YLE. 10 August 2006. Retrieved 20 February 2009. 
  16. "Finnair London flights on schedule". Helsingin Sanomat. 14 August 2006. Retrieved 20 February 2009. 
  17. "Hong Kong residents reminded of personal safety in UK" (Press release). Hong Kong Government. 10 August 2006. Retrieved 20 February 2009. 
  18. "Indian airports put on high alert". The Times of India (India). 11 August 2006. Retrieved 19 September 2006. 
  19. Dowling, Brian; Treacy Hogan (11 August 2006). "'Concern' but no plans to hike security". Irish Independent. Retrieved 21 February 2009. 
  20. "Dreigingsniveau Nederland blijft gelijk" (in Dutch). RTL Nieuws. 10 August 2006. Retrieved 20 February 2009. 
  21. "New Zealand passengers feel impact of UK alert". The New Zealand Herald. 11 August 2006. Retrieved 20 February 2009. 
  22. Trevett, Claire (12 August 2006). "Passengers' long haul before leaving the ground". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 20 February 2009. 
  23. "Arrestasjoner i Storbritannia 10. august – uendret trusselnivå i Norge" (in Norwegian). Norwegian Police Security Service. Retrieved 20 February 2009. 
  24. "Britain Names Suspects as Pakistan Announces Arrests". Der Spiegel. 11 August 2006.,1518,431235,00.html. Retrieved 20 February 2009. 
  25. "Incheon on Alert After London 'Foils' Terror Attack". The Chosun Ilbo. 11 August 2006. Archived from the original on 27 August 2007. Retrieved 19 February 2009. 
  26. "Incheon Airport on High Alert". The Korea Times. 11 August 2006. Archived from the original on 29 September 2007. Retrieved 20 February 2009. 
  27. Deutsche Presse-Agentur (10 August 2006). "Taiwan airports tighten security on Britain, US-bound passengers". Monsters and Critics. Retrieved 20 February 2009. 
  28. "Spanish airport security controls bolstered". ThinkSpain. 11 August 2006. Retrieved 19 February 2009. 
  29. "BAA outlines new security measures". CNN. 10 August 2006. Retrieved 19 February 2009. 
  30. "Main suspects in massive plane-bombing plot arrested". Detroit Free Press. Archived from the original on 20 August 2006. Retrieved 20 February 2009. 
  31. Booth, Jenny; Ben Webster, Sam Lister and Angela Jameson (11 August 2006). "Aviation chiefs may make liquids ban permanent". The Times (London). Retrieved 20 February 2009. 
  32. "Travel chaos grips UK's airports". BBC News. 10 August 2006. Retrieved 19 February 2009. 
  33. Hunt, Amber (10 August 2006). "Electronics permitted onboard for US travel". Detroit Free Press. Archived from the original on 22 August 2006. Retrieved 20 February 2009. 
  34. "Prohibited Items For Travelers". Transportation Security Administration. Archived from the original on 20 February 2009. Retrieved 19 February 2009. 
  35. "Commission Regulation (EC) No 1546/2006 of 4 October 2006 amending Regulation (EC) No 622/2003 laying down measures for the implementation of the common basic standards on aviation security Text with EEA relevance". Retrieved 19 February 2009. 
  36. "Restrictions on liquids as carry-on cabin baggage for international flights departing from Narita". Narita International Airport. 1 March 2007. Archived from the original on 25 February 2009. Retrieved 19 February 2009. 
  37. "New restrictions on liquids, gels and aerosols as carry-on baggage". All Nippon Airways. 16 May 2008. Retrieved 19 February 2009. 
  38. "BA back to normal 'in 48 hours'". BBC News. 16 August 2006. Retrieved 19 February 2009. 
  39. "Travel chaos grips UK's airports". BBC News. 10 August 2006. Archived from the original on 22 February 2011. Retrieved 19 February 2009. 
  40. Mathiason, Nick; Oliver Morgan and Rob Sharp (13 August 2006). "BA criticises Heathrow as travel mayhem grows". The Observer (London). Archived from the original on 22 February 2011. Retrieved 19 February 2009. 
  41. "10,000 bags misplaced at airports". BBC News. 15 August 2006. Retrieved 19 February 2009. 
  42. "Airports may 'grind to a halt'". Evening Standard. 13 August 2006.'grind+to+a+halt'/ Retrieved 21 February 2009. 
  43. "Ryanair issues security ultimatum". BBC News. 18 August 2006. Retrieved 19 February 2009. 
  44. Are we really at risk from snacks on a plane?, Sunday Herald, 20 August 2006[dead link]
  45. Naughton, Philippe; Sage, Adam (11 August 2006). "Terror may already be priced into values". The Times (London). Archived from the original on 22 February 2011. Retrieved 19 February 2009. 
  46. "BA says terror alert cost it £40m". BBC News. 5 September 2006. Archived from the original on 22 February 2011. Retrieved 19 February 2009. 
  47. "Ryanair to sue government for £3m". BBC News. 25 August 2006. Archived from the original on 22 February 2011. Retrieved 19 February 2009. 
  48. "Security alert cost Easyjet £4m". BBC News. 7 September 2006. Archived from the original on 22 February 2011. Retrieved 19 February 2009. 
  49. "BAA says terror alert cost £13m". BBC News. 12 September 2006. Archived from the original on 22 February 2011. Retrieved 19 February 2009. 
  50. Shah, Saeed; Susie Mesure (15 August 2006). "Travel chaos may prompt claim by BA against Heathrow". The Independent (London). Retrieved 19 February 2009. 
  51. James, Steve (22 August 2006). "UK terror scare: Airlines threaten legal action against British government". World Socialist Web Site. Retrieved 21 February 2009. 
  52. Calder, Simon (13 August 2006). "Airport meltdown: Airlines attack BAA over its handling of terror crisis, saying it 'cannot cope'". The Independent (London). Archived from the original on 22 February 2011. Retrieved 19 February 2009. 
  53. "At-a-glance: UK airports". BBC News. 11 August 2006. Archived from the original on 4 February 2009. Retrieved 19 February 2009. 
  54. "Homes cleared in anti-terror raid". BBC News. 10 August 2006. Archived from the original on 21 February 2011. Retrieved 20 February 2009. 
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