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Tue, Feb 17, 2004

Rash Of Cancellations Worry British Pilots Union

Group To Visit American Counterparts

British pilots’ leaders will fly to the United States today for talks on airline security amid continued concern about the number of flights being cancelled on the strength of intelligence information.

The British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa), which has called on the Government to check out information from the US which was leading to so many flight cancellations, said it had a number of outstanding issues to discuss with the American airline pilots’ association. General secretary Jim McAuslan said talks would be held on the way intelligence was gathered and how it was tested.

"Safety and security is our priority. Whenever there is a specific, credible threat to a flight, it is quite right that the flight is cancelled. But pilots around the world, analytical because of the nature of their job, continue to ask questions and these questions have to be answered," he said.

On Monday, British Airways cancelled another international flight over security fears. The scrapped flight was BA263 which would normally have left Heathrow for the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh at 1:35pm. The grounding followed the cancellation Sunday of BA223 – one of three London to Washington DC flights that BA operates daily.

It was the fifth time since the beginning of the year that this particular London-Washington service had been cancelled. Passengers on this route have also been subject to long delays on some other days. The cancellations have followed fears raised by United States intelligence of terror attacks on transatlantic flights and plans to install armed air marshals “where necessary”.

More than a dozen BA, Aeromexico and Air France flights to the USA have been cancelled or delayed since New Year’s Eve because of security fears.

FMI: www.balpa.org

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