Thursday, August 10, 2006

UK terror alert

Anti-terrorist police say they have foiled a suspected plot to blow up aircraft leaving UK airports. It's understood the aim was to detonate bombs smuggled on board flights to the United States in hand luggage, and as a result extra security is now in place at all UK airports.

CREDIT: Associated Press/BBC News
Screen capture from BBC News 24

The Department of Transport has issued new travel advice for passengers and no hand baggage is being allowed in aircraft cabins.
Passengers may take through the airport security search point, in a single (ideally transparent) plastic carrier bag, only the following items. Nothing may be carried in pockets:
  • Pocket-size wallets and pocket-size purses plus contents (for example money, credit cards, identity cards etc (not handbags)
  • Travel documents essential for the journey (for example passports and travel tickets)
  • Prescription medicines and medical items sufficient and essential for the flight (eg, diabetic kit), except in liquid form unless verified as authentic
  • Spectacles and sunglasses, without cases
  • Contact lens holders, without bottles of solution
  • For those travelling with an infant: baby food, milk (the contents of each bottle must be tasted by the accompanying passenger) and sanitary items sufficient and essential for the flight (nappies, wipes, creams and nappy disposal bags)
  • Female sanitary items sufficient and essential for the flight, if unboxed (eg tampons, pads, towels and wipes)
  • Tissues (unboxed) and/or handkerchiefs
  • Keys (but no electrical key fobs). All passengers must be hand searched, and their footwear and all the items they are carrying must be X-ray screened.
In response the US has raised it's alert level for flights coming from the UK, and for internal flights. Heathrow has also been shut to all incoming flights not already in the air.

CREDIT: Phil Coomes/BBC News
Most flights cancelled at Heathrow...

Update: Statements from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Department of Transport. More in-depth coverage from the Associated Press, and Slashdot picks up the story...

Update: I was expecting this,
Passengers are going to have to get used to the new restrictions, at least for the foreseeable future... - Chris Yates, Jane's Airport Review
We're also being told that we should pack on the basis hand luggage may not be allowed and to ensure that our checked luggage have a strong lock to protect valuables like laptops and cameras. Which is a bit confusing, as last time I put a lock on my hold baggage the TSA tore the bag to pieces. I use cable ties these days, but I'm hardly going to trust my laptop to that, even if I thought it'd survive in my hold baggage...

Update: The BBC is reporting that sources close to Transport Secretary Douglas Alexander indicated restrictions could become permanent, despite statements from the Department for Transport that the government hoped the current hand baggage restriction would be in place only for a "limited time".

Update: A possible way around the hand baggage ban?

Update: Hmm, it doesn't look like the Yanks believe the UK government's official line on the level of threat caused by the current "crisis".