British Airways flight to Washington delayed again

Monday, January 5, 2004

WASHINGTON -- Extra security checks again delayed a British Airways flight to Washington Dulles International Airport on Sunday as the United States entered a third consecutive week on a high state of alert for terrorists.

As the number of cancellations and delays mounted, the chairman and ranking Democrat on a key House committee endorsed a rapid assessment to plug gaps in U.S. defenses against terror attacks.

"The ports of L.A. and Long Beach are where 43 percent of the container traffic for America enters and exits, and yet we still don't have a good system of inspecting containers," Rep. Jane Harman of California said on CNN's "Late Edition."

Appearing on the same program, the Homeland Security Committee chairman, Rep. Christopher Cox, R-Calif., said the government is working on an assessment of vulnerabilities. "We're doing everything we can to speed that along, to hasten it, but we've got to prioritize," Cox said.

On Sunday, a British Airways flight from London to Dulles, canceled twice because of security fears, sat on the ground for more than three hours past its regular departure time to conduct security checks requested by the United States. British Transport Secretary Alistair Darling advised travelers to expect an increased number of security alerts in coming years.

"I fear that for many years to come we are going to be living in an age where there is going to be a heightened state of alert. Sometimes it will be quite severe, at other times perhaps less so," Darling told the British Broadcasting Corp. program "Breakfast with Frost."

"We are going to have to get used to increased security at airports. From time to time that will be noticeable, and at other times maybe things will be going on behind the scenes," Darling said.

British Airways has not yet decided whether today's scheduled flight from London to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, will fly. The airline canceled a Saturday flight to Riyadh and a Sunday flight in the other direction.

Associated Press reporters Jane Wardell and Jill Lawless in London contributed to this report.

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