Air industry will not name millennium danger spots reveal secrets of Y2K airline safety

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AN AVIATION executive who refuses to publish a secret list of airports not ready for the millennium said he would be happy if his wife and baby flew on New Year's Eve.

Thomas Windmuller, Year 2000 director at the International Air Transport Association (Iata), insisted he was confident in airlines' ability to cope. He said he would not be flying during the calendar change but he felt his wife, Cathy, and 20-month-old son Jonathan, would be safe in the air. He said: "Any airline that had concerns about safety would not fly."

The Foreign Office and MPs on the Transport Select Committee have asked Iata to publish its database on 1,800 airports for their ability to cope with the millennium bug. But Mr Windmuller said their survey about readiness for 2000 was answered on a basis of commercial confidentiality and Iata would be open to legal action if it published it.

"Airlines are confident that they are ready but are reluctant to say so because they are concerned about being sued if anything went wrong," he said.

Iata represents 260 airlines worldwide and is spending pounds 12m surveying the airports and the world's air traffic control networks. Airlines are spending pounds 1.4bn to test their systems.

The Australian airline Qantas may cut flights on international and domestic routes over the new year. But the chief executive officer, James Strong, has ruled out having himself or other key executives in the air on New Year's Eve to test millennium bug compliance.

The Foreign Office is advising UK citizens travelling abroad to consult their insurance companies to see if they are covered for year 2000, or Y2K-related, risks.

One poll showed that half of all business travellers would turn down a free flight to the destination of the choice if it meant being airborne at midnight on December 31. Only 60 of 300 travellers polled by the information provider OAG were confident that airlines were on top of the problem, although 200 were happy with their own company's programme.