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Saturday, 15 September, 2001, 09:16 GMT 10:16 UK
British airlines head to America
Heathrow board AP
Flight departure boards are getting full again
Many more flights are expected to leave the UK for the United States on Saturday, as airlines start to resume their normal schedules.

On Friday night, the first British aircraft were cleared to enter American skies after the US said it was satisfied with security arrangements for foreign planes.

British Airways said it planned to operate about two-thirds of its normal Saturday service to the states.

And Virgin Atlantic said it hoped to run a near normal service.

The regulations imposed to ban flight movements over central London, following the terrorist attacks in the US, are to be withdrawn just after midnight on Saturday.

'Humanitarian flight'

The first BA planes to leave for America on Friday were empty. They were sent to the US to reposition the aircraft ready to bring stranded passengers back to the UK.

The first BA flight to actually carry passengers across the Atlantic from Heathrow left at 0845BST on Saturday.

The airline said it planned to operate 20 of its 36 daily return services to the US on Saturday - seven from Gatwick and 13 from Heathrow.

These included flights to Washington, Boston, Newark, San Francisco, Miami, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Houston, Atlanta, Baltimore, Denver, Tampa and Phoenix.

Priority customers

Virgin Atlantic also resumed flights on Friday night - with a plane leaving Heathrow for Newark International Airport, near New York, at 2230BST.

It was operating as a "humanitarian flight", with most of the passengers relatives or friends of people caught up in the terror attacks.

Virgin Atlantic said it hoped to run a full service on Saturday - although it was awaiting confirmation that it could land in Boston.

Again, priority would be given to passengers wanting to fly on compassionate grounds, Virgin said.

Each American-bound departure will have received US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) approval to fly after passing stringent security checks. Each plane is being treated on a "case by case" basis.

Check-in time

American carriers American Airlines and United Airlines both ran limited services to and from America throughout Friday - and several planes coming from the US touched down at European airports.

American Airlines had scheduled 12 flights from Heathrow and Gatwick to US destinations on Saturday.

The UK's Civil Aviation Authority announced that a temporary exclusion zone around London, for flights below 6,000 feet (2,000 metres) over central London, would be lifted immediately after midnight on Saturday.

Airlines have warned passengers to allow for at least three hours of check-in time, because of extra security measures.

The BBC's James Helm
reports from Heathrow
Roger Cato from British Airports Authority
"All of the terminal buildings are very busy"
See also:

14 Sep 01 | UK
Heathrow arrest man freed
15 Sep 01 | Europe
Europe reviews aircraft safety
14 Sep 01 | UK
UK Afghans fear reprisals
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