European airports increase security
© St. Petersburg Times,
BERLIN -- Passengers at European airports faced heightened security checks Wednesday as officials sought measures to prevent terrorists from repeating devastating attacks that halted air traffic in the United States and over the Atlantic.
European transport ministers meeting this weekend in Belgium planned to discuss measures to make it more difficult to gain entry into cockpits, a German transport ministry spokesman said.
These include cockpit doors with bulletproof glass and special locking systems to prevent hijackers from commandeering planes.
Passenger flights connecting through Heathrow, Europe's busiest airport just outside of London, were now being required to claim their baggage and pass through immigration before rechecking the bags for their flights onward.
Arriving planes were being searched and all aircraft parked at Heathrow were under guard.
With U.S. airports closed until further notice, trans-Atlantic traffic at European airports was considerably lighter. Many airlines also grounded flights to the Middle East.
More than 120 flights were canceled Wednesday at Frankfurt's International airport, continental Europe's busiest with 1,400 daily flights, said airport spokesman Robert Payne.
Lufthansa, which uses Frankfurt as a hub, said more than 16,000 passengers have been affected.
About 30 hockey players from the United States and Canada hunkered down for a second night in Frankfurt's main departures lounge after their charter flight was canceled.
"We'd like to get home before anything else happens," said Paul Anderson, 22, of Toronto.
The players, on a self-financed trip to try out for European teams, ran out of money and couldn't afford a hotel. They spent a long night watching images of the collapsed World Trade Center towers and smoldering Pentagon on an espresso bar TV.
Frankfurt airport officials declined to discuss additional security measures, but recommended passengers get to the airport at least two hours before their flights.
The terminal was unusually empty at midday, when most trans-Atlantic flights would be departing or arriving, and armed border guards and police vans patrolled the terminals.
In France, squads of armed soldiers in camouflage uniforms patrolled Charles de Gaulle airport outside Paris after officials heightened security. Monitors flashed: "Air traffic disrupted."
Dawn Johnson, a tourist from Houston, arrived on a flight from Amsterdam and had planned to leave for home Wednesday morning.
"We're looking at another day or two -- an extended vacation," she said.
About 350 Americans were stranded in Iceland, trapped after their flights from Europe were grounded.
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From the AP