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Saturday, 6 July, 2002, 13:59 GMT 14:59 UK
'Chaos' warning over airport security plan
Passengers waiting in airport
Travel agents fear added security will create 'uproar'
Plans to introduce an extra layer of security at UK airport check-in desks will trigger "chaos", airlines and travel agents have warned.

The Home Office has confirmed it wants extra information from every passenger - including their name, address and passport number - before international flights.

It says there has been wide consultation on the plans and pledges they would be phased in to help the travel industry cope.


An electronic passport is surely much better than having pens and bits of paper on the desks of the airlines

Keith Betton
Abta
But airlines and travel agents have protested, saying the plans are unnecessary red tape and will mean check-in times of up to four hours for some flights.

Home Secretary David Blunkett has now asked the chief executives of Britain's airlines to meet him to discuss their concerns over the new regulations.

The Association of British Travel Agents (Abta) said the proposals were "a very, very large sledgehammer to crack what is obviously a very important nut".

Abta spokesman Keith Betton told BBC News: "Obviously security is important, we all recognise that in the industry, but what we're seeing here is something being brought in rather hurriedly with very, very little consultation.

"I think it will really impact on consumers, many of whom also will probably say: 'We don't feel comfortable giving this info, we feel it is an infringement of our civil liberties'.

"There will be real uproar from consumers and it'll cause chaos in the airports."

Step backward

He said if the rules were rushed through parliament as expected before the summer recess on 24 July, they would be introduced at airports over the next six months.

"Consumers will not welcome the idea of having to turn up an hour earlier just to fill in pieces of paper to confirm something that has been written in their passport electronically," he said.

"It seems to me we're turning the clock back 50 years as far as technology is concerned and really I think this is window dressing that's not going to be practical."

Security official checking baggage x-rays
Security was tightened after the September 11 terror attacks
A Home Office spokesman said the airlines had not raised their concern about extending check-in times in their discussions with the government.

He said that Mr Blunkett would want to hear airline chief executives' concerns.

The Home Office says airlines should already have the extra information when passengers book direct with them, therefore the burden is likely to be greater for travel agents who in the past have not been required to keep such information about their clients.

The spokesman stressed that the government was in discussions over ways of staggering implementation of the new rules so that travel operators and airlines could cope with them

News of the government's intentions emerged in the wake of Thursday's gun attack at Los Angeles airport in which an Egyptian man killed two people before being shot dead himself.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Nick Thatcher
"Airlines and travel companies aren't happy"
Keith Betton of Abta
"There will be uproar from consumers and it'll cause chaos in the airports"

Talking PointTALKING POINT
Airport security
What more needs to be done to tighten it up?
See also:

06 Jul 02 | Talking Point
05 Jul 02 | Americas
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