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Tuesday, 18 September, 2001, 10:48 GMT 11:48 UK
Minister to meet airline heads
BA chief executive Rod Eddington, left, with Virgin Atlantic chairman Sir Richard Branson prior to the meeting
BA and Virgin Atlantic may ask for government aid
Transport minister Stephen Byers is to meet UK airline chiefs to discuss "security and financial matters" in the light of the US terror attacks.

It is understood that the heads of British Airways and Virgin Atlantic will ask for financial aid at the meeting on Tuesday.

The latter joined US competitors on Monday by axeing 20% of its transatlantic flights and 1,200 of its workforce.

In the light of the suicide pilot, we need to think again

Stephen Byers, UK transport secretary

Mr Byers is considering new safetly measures on aircraft following the attacks in the US.

Armed guards and isolated cockpits were among measures discussed by EU transport ministers on Friday.

Mr Byers told the BBC that further measures may still be needed to ensure such attacks could not happen again.

These might include the introduction of armed guards and cockpits which are cut off from the rest of the aircraft - measures already used by the Israeli national carrier El Al.

"This is a measure I think we will need to consider in the light of what happened," he said.

"This is a new form of terrorism and we need to respond to it in the appropriate way."

World Trade Center tower burning
The concept of the suicide hijacker did not exist before Tuesday

European Union governments agreed to co-ordinate airport security controls for the first time at the meeting.

The EU's 15 member states have agreed to make law existing recommendations on comprehensive screening of passenger luggage and cargo on board planes.

Currently there are no binding EU rules on aircraft and airport security.

Speaking after the emergency meeting in Brussels on Friday night, Stephen Byers said the events in New York and Washington DC had forced governments to look again at airport security.

"We are facing a new form of terrorism which uses passenger aircraft as guided missiles. We must ensure that we meet this threat with appropriate measures," he added.

European airport security was already tougher than in the US before the attacks, but lacked consistency across all countries.

A special group of aviation experts will be set up to examine closer EU co-operation on airport security and will report back to transport ministers in mid-October.

'Everything changed'

The measures announced include a commitment to screen all baggage going into aircraft holds - which airports in Germany, Italy and Poland currently do not always carry out - by the end of 2002.

UK Transport Secretary Stephen Byers
Stephen Byers: "New form of terrorism"
The EU's Transport Commissioner Loyola de Palacio said: "On Tuesday, everything changed. It showed us that there must be more rigour in the way we apply our regulations.

"Politically, the EU has shown that it is able to grasp the nettle and give itself common rules, monitor their application, and guarantee a uniform high level of safety at a European and international level.

"I suppose you could say it has taken Tuesday's tragic events for us to do this."

Proposals for a new system of monitoring airport security will be put by the EU to a meeting of world aviation authorities in Montreal, Canada, later this month.

Mike Ambrose, European Regional Airlines Association
"We have to look at security again"
UK Transport Secretary Stephen Byers
says there will also be a meeting of all international aviation authorities in Montreal
Philip Baum, ed. of Aviation Security International
"There are all sorts of items with which you could hijack a plane"
See also:

13 Sep 01 | Europe
Europe commemorates US dead
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