Heathrow: Frustration is the dominant emotion among those delayed

Click to follow
The Independent Online
FOREIGN travellers at Heathrow yesterday reacted with frustration at the delays, but few signs of fear.

The memory of Gerry Adams's recent visit to the US had clearly influenced some American passengers. 'Now we know a lot more about these guys than you think,' said one woman attending a schools basketball tournament with a group of American children. 'We heard they always give a warning so there really isn't anything to worry about. No one back home seems worried about flying into here. Hell, they wouldn't hurt anyone unless they had to . . .'

The basketball fan was an island of calm in a sea of frustration and misery. Hundreds of passengers evacuated from Terminal 4 crowded into Terminal 1, where thousands more were waiting for news of their delayed flights in a demoralising information vacuum.

Tony Leisner, an American consultant to a firm in Folkestone, Kent, had arrived from Miami at 6.40am, was told to stay aboard the plane for about an hour, then evacuated from Terminal 4 when, unbeknown to him, a mortar bomb landed on the roof. By 1.30pm, he was exhausted.

'The worst thing isn't the thought of the bombs,' he said. 'It's that horrible feeling of knowing you're getting farther and farther away from your luggage. That's what's more likely to stop Americans coming to Heathrow. People will get flights to Gatwick or some other airport - not to avoid the bombs, but to avoid the disruption and stress. Stress kills more people than bombs.'

A Portuguese woman, flying to Lisbon, said the reputation of British airports had remained intact in her country, despite the mortar attacks. 'There is a lot of faith in British security,' she said. She looked shocked, however, when told a mortar bomb had landed on the roof.

The biggest complaint was lack of information. Five hours after the attack, 30 long-haul flights had been cancelled, eight inbound aircraft had been sent as far away as Liverpool, and scores more departures were being delayed. But no one had told the passengers

exactly why.

'We were concerned something like this might happen, so we called at 6am and asked whether we should go from Gatwick,' said Titus Kuhne, travelling to Dusseldorf with his friend, Christian Drawirt. 'They said 'No, everything's fine', so we came here. No one has told us a thing since then. They just keep repeating there's been a 'security alert'.'

Sitting on his rucksack, Mr Kuhne could not resist taking a peek at his watch. 'The flight from Gatwick was due to take off four minutes ago,' he said.