USallows Internal Flights to Finish Trips; SAFETY: Airport Security Tightened

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Byline: JOANNE ATKINSON

INTERNAL US flights diverted after Tuesday's attacks on the World Trade Centre and Pentagon were yesterday authorised to finish their journeys but all other planes remained grounded.

In Britain thousands of passengers were left stranded as international flights to the US continued to be banned.

US Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta said that only passengers on the original internal flights could reboard and only after new security measures were in place. Airlines also can move empty planes, he said.

"Safety is always of paramount importance, and in these extraordinary times we intend to be vigilant, " Mineta said.

The reopened airports will have new security procedures, including:

Thorough searches of all planes and airports;

No roadside check-ins, nor check-ins at hotels and other off-airport sites;

Allowing only passengers to pass through security checkpoints to gates.

The aviation shutdown ordered on Tuesday was the first in US history.

The FAA also increased airport security after the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 in 1988 and the crash of TWA Flight 800 in 1996.

But a series of reports by Congress' General Accounting Office and the Transportation Department's inspector general found that many holes remained in the aviation security net.

The General Accounting Office and inspector general in April last year found problems with low-paid airport security screeners, who must check passengers and carry-on baggage, and with equipment designed to detect bombs in luggage.

Inspector General Kenneth Mead reported in January that the FAA needed to improve training for airport security screeners and increase the use of bomb-detection machines.

The inspector general's office said last year that airport operators and airlines often did not conduct required background checks of employees.

Mary Schiavo, a former DOT inspector general who has been warning of lax airport security for a decade, told The Seattle Times that Tuesday's co-ordinated attack of four flights scheduled to take off within 36 minutes of each other was "without a doubt an inside job" by terrorists who infiltrated airport security companies.

In Britain tens of thousands of passengers were left stranded at airports across the UK as flights to the US, Canada and the Middle East were grounded. …