Today's BA223 flight from London to Washington was delayed by 3 hours and 40 minutes.
This flight has now been delayed or cancelled for 8 days in a row since New Year's Eve when the delays were at the Washington end, after the fighter escorted landing. It looks like the terrorists are winning.
Yesterday's BBC Newsnight interview with Tom Ridge, head of the USA Department of Homeland Security mentioned the ill starred BA223 flight:
There is a British Airways flight, BA 223 which has not been able to fly to Washington now twice and has been delayed on other occasions. Do you have some specific piece of intelligence which suggests that that flight is a particular terrorist target?
Well, there has been an indication from our intelligence that we've shared with your intelligence services that has led us to target that flight. Unfortunately, it had to be cancelled twice. One of the discussions we had today, a very productive, very positive discussion with Sir David Omand, who was following up on a conversation I had with Home Secretary Blunkett, was how we deal with information, whether it's relative to flight 223 or any other flights in the future, and what level of security do we add and how do we get together to determine collectively the kind of risk and security measures, whether it's flight 223 or any other flight that might be targeted in a specific piece of intelligence.
But there is something specific about that particular flight?
During the particular period, that flight has been mentioned, but the purpose of the meeting today was to take a look at the lessons learned during our mutual response to the concerns around that flight and to determine if targeted information that we both agree in the future is credible. We should therefore agree to assess the risks associated with that information and hopefully come up with a standard protocol so we could avoid some of the difficulties we've encountered over the past week, including keeping these airlines on the Tarmac for two or three hours before they ultimately fly to the United States. We need to work together to avoid that as much as possible in the future. And the requests with regard to air marshals, if I might add, is not a gross and blanket request to have air marshals available for all flights, but just to see whether or not we could develop a number, depending on the information that we would share and the risk assessment that we would do together to create this option to add another level of security to flights coming from Great Britain to the United States. Obviously, it could work the other way as well. Great Britain might say to us, depending on the information they receive, we would like additional air marshals on flights coming into Great Britain.
Specifically, on flight BA 223, would you let a child of yours fly on it from London to Washington?
Now I would, absolutely. We've looked at this, we've looked at the inspection, the rigorous inspection that Her Majesty's Government and all the relative agencies have brought to aviation security. You've created a special gate. There has been enhanced baggage and passenger screening, and there's a rather lengthy list of additional security measures that you've taken, and I think we have a job to do on our side of the Atlantic so we can review the passenger information that you send to us and review it quicker, so once we're satisfied that all the security measures have been taken and that we've dealt with the potential risks, that the flight can get airborne a lot quicker than it's been over the past three or four days.
Well, they're saying that this information that's transmitted from here has to go to something like 22 different agencies on your side of the Atlantic, and one of them, in particular, is incredibly slow. That's not yours is it?
Well, I hope not, Jeremy. I don't think it is, and again, part of the delay is not occasioned by anything that you've done or failed to do. Part of the delay is occasioned on our side, and one of the subjects that we discussed today with Sir David Omand and his group was what additional information could be passed to us earlier in this whole process so that we could review it so these planes could take off as scheduled, most closer to the scheduled time of departure"
Apparently the message from Tom Ridge and Sir David Omand has not actually got through to their transport security bureaucracies yet.