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SERVICES 
Thursday, 13 September, 2001, 22:45 GMT 23:45 UK
More disruption for US flights
Planes lined up at Heathrow
The airport congestion is likely to persist well into Friday
The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has grounded flights headed to New York-area airports late on Thursday, citing unspecified "FBI activity."

The move came only hours after Transport Secretary Norman Mineta re-opened US airspace to commercial flights.

The FAA said no flights nationwide were being permitted to take off for New York's LaGuardia Airport, John F Kennedy International and Newark International in New Jersey.

"We are very, very, very disappointed in the attitude of the US government," said Hugo Baas, a spokesman for Dutch airline KLM, which was forced to cancel two US-bound flights.

Deserted Heathrow airport
The check-ins for transatlantic flights are deserted
Italy's Alitalia and Portugal's TAP also both recalled flights to New York's John F Kennedy airport that were already in the air.

US carriers are also being hit: Continental Airlines said it still could not get government permission for many flights, and could only operate limited special passenger flights on Thursday evening.

Airspace slowly opens

While the New York area is still heavily disrupted, the airspace in the rest of the country is starting to come back to life.

Package shipper Airborne Express, which operates just over 100 flights every night, said it was resuming full service operations on Thursday.

Atlanta's Hartsfield International Airport, one of the busiest terminals in the world, also re-opened on Thursday.

But security was considerably tightened: teams of police officers, accompanied by German shepherd dogs, patrolled the hallways, and passenger numbers are extremely low.

Cautious re-opening

Most airlines are now awaiting clarification of the new FAA regulations before launching services.

But Mr Mineta had announced that airspace was reopened at 1100 EDT (1500 GMT), with investigations ongoing to decide which flights would be permitted to fly through it.

"We will re-open airports and resume flights on a case-by-case basis, only after they implement our more stringent levels of security," said Mr Mineta, adding that the decision was good news for travellers, the economy and for the restoration of America's mobility.

The terrorist attacks have caused chaos at airports around the world, as well as hitting at the heart of the US financial world.

Limited flights

The return to normal air services was always expected to be very gradual.

New security measures
All knives banned

Strict screening measures

Vehicles more carefully monitored

No scissors

No kerbside check-ins

Boarding area off-limit to everyone but passengers

Armed plain-clothes guards on some flights

Each case is being reviewed on an individual basis, and airports will only be re-opened when they have proved that stringent new security checks are being met.

And US authorities plan to draft in Delta Force commandos to help protect civilian planes.

The US government allowed limited flights on Wednesday so that planes diverted during the attacks could reach their original destination.

"Safety is always of paramount importance, and in these extraordinary times we intend to be vigilant as we remain committed to resuming commercial flights as soon as possible," said Mr Mineta.

The International Air Transport Association has estimated that this week's flight cancellations will cause the air industry $10bn.

Lack of space

Industry specialists said restoring world air travel to normal is likely to be a prolonged affair, because of the need for extremely tight security measures, the lack of space for aeroplanes on the ground, and a necessary reshuffling of the location of planes that had been diverted.

Chicago's O'Hare airport
US airports are still heavily disrupted
Under normal circumstances, a large proportion of the world's planes are in the air rather than on the ground.

Space at airports is scarce, so landing planes within a narrow timeframe presents huge logistical difficulties.

An estimated 4,000 commercial aircraft - almost one third of the world's fleet - were grounded in the US shortly after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

After what has been called "the blackest day aviation has ever had", the airline industry is also facing severe financial consequences.

See also:

13 Sep 01 | Business
Insurance costs 'incalculable'
12 Sep 01 | Business
Wall Street counts the cost
12 Sep 01 | Business
Air industry faces bleak outlook
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