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Terror alert causes chaos on London flights

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10:53 CEST+02:00
Flights between Sweden and Britain faced delays and cancellations on Thursday after a terrorist plot to blow up planes in mid-flight to the United States was foiled.

The terrorists planned commit "mass murder on an unimaginable scale,” according to British Home Secretary John Reid, the minister in charge of national security.

Flights between Sweden and London were cancelled following the alert, as Heathrow issued a blanket ban on all incoming short-haul flights. The ban was lifted on Thursday afternoon, but passengers were still encountering severe disruption in the evening.

Passengers from Sweden to the United States were also facing minor inconvenience, as restrictions were placed on hand baggage.

BA flights worst hit

The delays on Thursday hit British Airways passengers worst. The airline, which flies between Stockholm Arlanda and London Heathrow, cancelled all flights into and out of Stockholm for the rest of the day. Two outgoing and three incoming flights were called off between 6:30pm and midnight.

Services on Scandinavian airline SAS were faring somewhat better.

“The 18:20 flight to Heathrow was delayed by about ten minutes,” SAS spokeswoman Ulrika Fager told The Local.

“Our incoming flights from Heathrow on Thursday evening have been cancelled, but we haven't had problems with flights from London City Airport,” she said, confirming that the airline's evening flight from London City was expected to leave as planned.

Two SAS flights from Heathrow to Arlanda, and one from Heathrow to Gothenburg Landvetter, had been scheduled to arrive on Thursday evening. All three were cancelled.

SAS was helping passengers make alternative plans, Fager said.

“We're helping them to rebook, and those passengers whose flights have been cancelled and choose not to rebook will get their money back.”

“All passengers who have Scandinavian Airlines tickets to London until this Sunday, 13th August, will be able to change their reservations to any other SAS flight in the next three months,” she added. The airline would also try to help passengers due to make connections in London, she added.

The airline is currently working on the assumption that morning flights from London to Sweden will be able to leave.

“The aircraft from the 18:20 flight to Heathrow is due to stay in London overnight. We hope it will be able to leave in the morning, but we're following directions from airport management,” said Fager.

'No threat to Sweden'

The Swedish Civil Aviation Authority said in a statement on Thursday that there was “nothing that indicates an increased threat to flights from Sweden for the time being, but [we] are monitoring the situation carefully.”

The organization said it was in close touch with the National Police Board and SÄPO, Sweden's security service.

“[We] are also in contact with the appropriate authoriies in other European countries, to get the clearest possible picture of the siutation.

Ulrika Fager said SAS never comments on security procedures, “but of course we follow instructions from the authorities.”

Arlanda police spokesman Joakim Wallin told Svenska Dagbladet on Thursday morning that there was heightened security on flights to the United States, the destination for the aircraft allegedly at the centre of the bomb plot.

Ryanair flights delayed

Ryanair's flights between London and its bases at Stockholm Skavsta, Malmö Sturup and Gothenburg City airports were running, although there had been some delays.

Dot Gade Kulovuori, managing director of Skavsta, told The Local that the morning's first flight to Stansted left on schedule, but there had been problems later in the day.

"The flight from London that was supposed to arrive at 11:40 arrived at 15:50," she said. This had a knock-on effect on the Ryanair flight to Gdansk, which had to be cancelled.

"Otherwise, we haven't been too badly affected," she said.

A Ryanair flight from Gothenburg to London, due to leave at 10:20, was delayed by five hours.

Passengers flying on the London - Copenhagen route were also affected, with no BA flights from Heathrow taking off or landing, and the evening's Easyjet arrival from London Stansted cancelled.

SAS flights from Copenhagen to Heathrow were mostly cancelled, although at 7 pm the 22:55 flight was still scheduled to take off. Routes to other parts of the UK were running on Thursday evening.

The alert started when British police arrested 21 people in the London area. According to the website of British internal security agency MI5, the high threat level means "an attack is expected imminently and indicates an extremely high level of threat to the UK," according to the BBC.

Are you affected by the flight cancellations? Get in touch with us at editorial@thelocal.se or by calling +46 (0)8 656 6518.

Adam Ewing and James Savage

Front page photo: copyright Tom Collins

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