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Thursday, 13 September, 2001, 14:58 GMT 15:58 UK
Flight restrictions set to ease
Passengers wait for flights
American flights are to resume case by case
Thousands of travellers stranded in the UK are waiting to hear when flights to North America will resume following the terror attacks in the US.

American airspace was reopening at 1600BST on Thursday, after having been closed since the attacks on Tuesday afternoon.

But officials have warned that it could be some time yet before transatlantic passenger services fully resume.

We will re-open airports and resume flights on a case-by-case basis, only after they implement our more stringent levels of security

US transportation secretary Norman Mineta

Heathrow officials said it was extremely unlikely that any transatlantic flights would take off on Thursday.

The 6,000ft government no-fly zone over central London, imposed on Tuesday, will not be lifted until midnight on Saturday.

London's City airport will re-open on Friday but with planes diverted away from central London on their flight paths.

Restrictions on light aircraft and helicopter flights in the UK have been lifted.

Returns to Heathrow

Some flights which had been diverted from the US on Tuesday were allowed to operate over US airspace on Thursday, to reach their intended destination.

Five flights - four from Canada and one from Bermuda - were returning to Heathrow after having been diverted.

US transportation secretary Norman Mineta said US airspace would reopen gradually.

"We will re-open airports and resume flights on a case-by-case basis, only after they implement our more stringent levels of security," he said.

Airport security
Security remains heightened at airports

The Association of British Travel Agents (Abta) said anyone hoping to go to the US before Friday should assume their trip had been cancelled.

BA flights from the UK to Islamabad in Pakistan also remain suspended.

Airlines say they are operating other flights normally, including those to destinations near the US, such as the Caribbean.

Sleeping at airport

About 2,000 passengers who had been about to fly to the US or Canada when the attacks happened have been staying in hotels in London.

Others have been sleeping in Heathrow, in the hopes of being on the spot when flights resumed.

Passengers wait
Some passengers spent the night at airports

Jo-Anne Shellman, 62, from Los Angeles, said: "We were due to leave for LA on Tuesday afternoon.

"We have no idea when we can get back home. I spent the night sitting in this chair without a blanket."

Hillingdon Council provided accommodation for about 140 stranded passengers in Uxbridge Civic Centre on Wednesday night.

Security is remaining tight at all UK airports, causing some check-in delays.

Abta has advised all passengers to check with their airline before leaving home.

Compensation packages

For holidaymakers unable to reach their US destination the UK's Federation of Tour Operators has extended its 48-hour compensation package until midnight Friday, giving a no-penalty refund or free transfer to an alternative holiday.

This covers travel to all parts of the US, except New York, Boston and Washington.

For those due to travel to one of those three destinations a similar deal lasts until midnight 18 September.

The BBC's Robert Hall
reports from London's Heathrow airport
The BBC's Bob Sinkinson
reports on the Britons stranded in Canada

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See also:

13 Sep 01 | UK
Attacks cancel UK flights
13 Sep 01 | Business
Green light for US flights
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