.contact us |.about us
News > International News ... ...
U.S. air marshal plans resisted in Europe, Africa
( 2004-01-06 22:32) (Agencies)

Airlines in Europe and Africa vowed on Tuesday to cancel flights rather than comply with American demands to carry armed air marshals on some U.S.-bound planes to guard against more September 11-style attacks.

The decisions by South African Airways and Thomas Cook Airlines, the charter flight arm of Europe's second biggest travel firm, deepened controversy over a move Washington sees as essential to outwitting al Qaeda and other extremist groups.

The British government insisted it would deploy marshals "where appropriate."

Another jet was delayed in London overnight as protracted security checks could not be completed in time for takeoff.

British Airways' flight BA183 from London's Heathrow to New York's John F. Kennedy airport, with 262 passengers, was now due to leave nearly a day late at 1530 GMT, BA said.

The Christmas and New Year global aviation scare has already grounded British flights to Saudi Arabia and Washington.

British Transport Secretary Alistair Darling said tighter security would be needed indefinitely and more delays would follow.

Media speculation has suggested intelligence services have specific information about al Qaeda plans to down planes.

"This state of alert is likely to last for some considerable time, " Darling told parliament. "We will continue to be vigilant, we will continue to do what is necessary."

British pilots -- unhappy with air marshals but starting to see them as inevitable -- were due to meet Darling later on Tuesday to press for an industry-wide agreement on their deployment.

"The fact that you have got people behind you in a pressurized cabin with guns and bullets is not a happy thought," said a spokesman for the British Airline Pilots' Association (BALPA), which groups most of Britain's 9,200 airline pilots.

"But if the government persists, we want certain conditions laid down."


Darling insisted sky marshals would be used on flights from Britain because of a heightened terror threat.

"There is an increased threat and we have to deal with that in a balanced and proportionate way," he said. "Sky marshals will be deployed where appropriate."

BALPA wants the government to standardize an agreement it has already reached with Virgin Atlantic Airways.

The main tenets of the accord are that the flight captain should retain overall command, will know who and where the marshals are and that only certain weapons can be used.

Darling said he had always made clear the pilot would remain in charge of the aircraft.

German-owned Thomas Cook Airlines, which flies to Orlando in Florida from Britain and also flies through U.S. airspace to the Caribbean, ruled out using marshals in any circumstances.

"Thomas Cook Airlines has not changed its policy that if presented with a sky marshal on any of our routes, the flight would be canceled," it said in a statement.

South African Airways, which has 28 return flights a week to Atlanta and New York, also said it would not for the time being meet U.S. demands.

BA, Europe's biggest airline, says it would accept deployment of an armed police officer on board a flight if it was satisfied safety would be enhanced.

As well as requiring airlines to carry marshals on selected flights, U.S. authorities on Monday began fingerprinting and photographing foreigners arriving at more than 100 airports.

After fears of a possible attack, BA resumed flights to the Saudi capital Riyadh on Monday and its Washington service, canceled twice last week, took to the skies again.

The security services face a daily dilemma -- Western intelligence knows just enough to believe specific flights are at risk, but apparently not enough yet to be able to track down individuals or make arrests.

  Today's Top News   Top International News
+China to use US$45b to overhaul state banks
( 2004-01-06)
+China city folk take new SARS case in stride
( 2004-01-06)
+China to put 10 satellites into orbit in 2004
( 2004-01-06)
+Individuals to get import-export rights
( 2004-01-06)
+Was it `road rage' or an accident?
( 2004-01-06)
+U.S. air marshal plans resisted in Europe, Africa
( 2004-01-06)
+Bush to propose immigration law changes
( 2004-01-06)
+India, Pakistan agree to start dialogue in Feb
( 2004-01-06)
+Blast kills eight in Afghan city of Kandahar
( 2004-01-06)
+Syria firm on WMD ban throughout Mideast, paper says
( 2004-01-06)
  Go to Another Section  
  Article Tools  
        .contact us |.about us
  Copyright By chinadaily.com.cn. All rights reserved