Heathrow's tills ring as passengers count the cost of their long wait

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Confusion was commonplace at Heathrow yesterday even as, minute by minute, the various security restrictions were eased.

BAA announced that smaller electronic items, such as mobile phones and cameras, were allowed in hand luggage. But, queuing for departures, passengers with the familiar see-through plastic bags had vastly disparate carry-on possessions.

Some carried only a wallet and passport, while others were weighed down with previously banned luxuries. The angry crowds had largely disappeared to be replaced by shorter, more orderly lines of travellers more resigned to whatever hurdles awaited them.

In large white tents outside - which are a regular annual fixture during summer airline strikes - they sat eating their free muesli bars.

Johanna Hagstrom, 18, and Anna Kalm, 17, who had been studying English, have been trying to get home to Finland since Saturday. "They said the flight was cancelled, gave us a number to rebook it, and told us to go home. We didn't know what to do. We have no home in London," said Ms Kalm.

After a night in the language college's flat and another in a hotel provided by BA, during which their parents' phone calls became a regular fixture, they managed to rebook their flights for 8pm last night. "It has got a bit tiresome," said Ms Hagstrom.

Across the airport, holidaymakers who had heeded advice to arrive four hours early, only to be told to wait, were trying to alleviate the boredom. Some had stretched out on mats to sleep.

Claire Brazell, 32, from New Zealand, had travelled from Chicago only to be told she had a 12-hour delay to get to Teesside. "It is crazy, so frustrating," she said.

Kim Woodward, 50, and her 78-year-old father, Ken, had already lost one bag travelling from Seattle on their way to Botswana for a safari. Nevertheless Ms Woodward, like so many others, refused to be disheartened or dissuaded.

"This is the trip of a lifetime for us. We are not going to let it get us down. If I have to go naked, the lions won't mind," she said.

But the couple said many of their friends back in America were now re-scheduling flights to avoid the UK. "They just don't want the hassle with Heathrow," she said.

For some, the experience has been more than a simple annoyance. It has been expensive. Staff at one luggage shop estimated that their takings had trebled as confused transit passengers bought bags to replace hand luggage that had to be put in the hold.

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