US security scares are condemned by pilots

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The "erratic" way transatlantic flights have been grounded because of US intelligence warnings was condemned last night by the British Airline Pilots' Association (Balpa).

The "erratic" way transatlantic flights have been grounded because of US intelligence warnings was condemned last night by the British Airline Pilots' Association (Balpa).

It complained that the spate of cancellations, blamed on "credible" terrorist threats, was intensifying passengers' fears about their safety.

Six flights to the United States from Britain and France have been scrapped in the past two days, although services are expected to operate normally today. The CIA is reported to have discovered evidence that al-Qa'ida terrorists could try to release a chemical or biological weapon on a transatlantic service.

Jim McAuslan, Balpa's general secretary, said: "We have to take all these intelligence briefings very seriously, but we are asking the British Government to examine the ... validity of them. These cancellations were made because of US intelligence and the airline is quite right to cancel the flights." But he added: "The erratic nature of the security intelligence is a concern. It is the sort of thing that feeds public disquiet rather than resolves the concern of passengers, pilots and the UK industry as a whole."

The Department for Transport said: "Airline security is kept under review at all times ... The decision was made that these flights would be cancelled. Our first priority is always the safety of the travelling public."

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