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Saturday, 6 July, 2002, 17:00 GMT 18:00 UK
Showdown over airport security plan
Passengers waiting in airport
Travel agents fear added security will create 'uproar'
A showdown is looming over government plans to introduce tough new security measures at UK airport check-in desks.

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

But Britain's airline bosses say the "nightmare" new measures could mean hours of delays for travellers at the height of the holiday season and increased travel costs.


We are being lumbered with something that will cost a tremendous amount to bring in

Thomson Holidays
Home Secretary David Blunkett has now asked the airline's chief executives to meet him to discuss their concerns over the new regulations.

A spokesman for Mr Blunkett said the home office had consulted widely over the plans but the travel industry had not raised concerns about extended check-in times causing serious delays.

"The home secretary is very concerned," he said.

"He is going to call in all the chief executives of the airlines and ask them why they are now saying this is going to cause delays and why it has not been raised before during a long period of consultation we had with them.

"They are operating a business and we acknowledge that, but there was no talk of chaos for air travellers."

The government has already pledged to phased in the changes to help the travel industry cope.

'Uproar'

The Association of British Travel Agents (Abta) said there had been little consultation over the changes.

It called the proposals "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'.

Security official checking baggage x-rays
Security was tightened after the September 11 terror attacks
"There will be real uproar from consumers and it'll cause chaos in the airports."

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."

Burden

Prices could also rise as a result said a spokeswoman for the UK's biggest tour operator, Thomson Holidays.

"We are being lumbered with something that will cost a tremendous amount to bring in and we fear holidays will have to rise in price," she added.

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 Simon Montague
"The Home Office wants the information in case of anti-terrorist investigations"
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?
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