Most have already heard the news that is dominating the airwaves today: According to a report from the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), "A plot to blow up planes in flight from the U.K. to the U.S. and commit mass murder on an unimaginable scale has been disrupted, Scotland Yard has said."
The tactic was to detonate liquid explosives aboard commercial airplanes flying from the United Kingdom to the United States -- airlines mentioned in particular were American, United and Continental. The liquid explosives intended to blow up the planes would have been concealed in ordinary containers. These include shampoo, contact lens solution, deodorant, hand lotion -- the kind of stuff that folks normally might have tucked into carry-on bags.
In a press conference this morning, U.S. Department of Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff says that "every prudent step to thwart new attacks" has been taken but that the plot "may not be fully thwarted."
There are conflicting reports on the status of London's Heathrow Airport; for more information on flight disruptions, visit the British Airports Authority Web site.
Flights slated to depart the U.S. later today have not been canceled though travelers expecting to fly should check with their air carriers.
In response to today's disturbing announcement, travelers planning to fly to the U.K. and beyond (its airports are major gateways to Europe), as well as air passengers heading anywhere in the U.S., should be prepared for the following:
Change in Security Level: All flights between Britain and the U.S. are at their highest security levels. In the U.S. this means that the threat level has been raised to "severe" or red; in the U.K. it stands at "critical," or red. Levels for U.S. domestic flights have also been raised to "high", or orange. Prior to today, levels across the board for U.S. flights, international or domestic, had been at "elevated," or yellow.
Flight Delays and Cancellations: As noted, stay in touch with your carrier. We will be providing information from cruise lines for folks planning to board -- or who are heading home from -- cruises in Europe in the next few days and whose trips may be impacted; stay tuned. In the U.S. there are no domestic cancellations.
Security Delays: Because of what U.S. Department of Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff described today as "the new screening regime" travelers should prepare for additional delays at security checkpoints and arrive at the airport earlier than usual as a result.
Carry-Ons: Hand luggage is so severely restricted that you can barely take anything on, including electronics or the aforementioned liquids. It is limited to travel documents and essential medical items at this point. Exceptions: baby formula and medicines but they must be declared at security checkpoints. Medicines need to be accompanied by documentation from your doctor.
We will update information -- adding stories on airline cancellation policies, reports from travel insurers, and the all-important back-up plans from cruise lines whose passengers may be affected -- so check back throughout the day.
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