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International flights getting back on track

10 flights disrupted since Wednesday over security concerns

British police officers patrol a terminal at London's Heathrow Airport this Saturday.
British police officers patrol a terminal at London's Heathrow Airport this Saturday.

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INTERRUPTED JOURNEYS
Flights disrupted in the last week amid security concerns

Saturday, January 3
• British Airways Flt. 263, London-Riyahd, Saudi Arabia, Canceled

Friday, January 2

•British Airways Flt. 223, London-Washington, Canceled

• British Airways Flt. 217, London-Washington, Delayed 2 hours

• British Airways Flt. 216, Washington-London, delayed while  plane searched

Thursday, January 1

•British Airways Flt. 223, London-Washington, Canceled

• BritishAirways Flt. 216, Washington-London, Delayed, passengers rescreened
•Aeromexico Flt. 490, Mexico City-Los Angeles - Canceled
• Air France Flt. 3112, New York-Paris, diverted to Canada

Wednesday, December 31

•Aeromexico Flt. 490, Mexico City-Los Angeles, Canceled

 • British Airways Flt. 223, London-Washington, detained in D.C., passengers rescreened

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LONDON (CNN) -- Flight problems stemming from security concerns eased somewhat Saturday, although a British Airways flight to Washington that was canceled two days in a row left London's Heathrow Airport after a delay of three and a half hours, the airline said.

Flight 223, which had been scheduled to leave at 10:05 a.m. ET (1505 GMT), departed London at 1829 GMT (1:29 p.m. ET) and was expected at Washington's Dulles Airport about 9:10 p.m. ET. (Full story)

An official with the airline told CNN that additional security checks meant it took longer to board.

British Airways officials said that U.S. officials had cleared the flight for Saturday's trip. Britain's Ministry of Transport said the plane was now deemed safe to operate, without elaborating.

Flight 223 was canceled Thursday and Friday and U.S. fighter jets escorted it to Dulles on Wednesday night. Passengers were held on board Wednesday for several hours while FBI agents questioned some whose names were similar to those of known terrorists.

All those passengers were cleared.

A Bush administration official said the flight was canceled Friday because of a dispute between the British Air Line Pilots Association and the British government over carrying armed marshals on flights.

The British government recently announced it would require armed undercover marshals on some international flights. The union opposes the rule, saying flying with armed marshals is dangerous. The group says the money should instead be spent on improving ground security.

Because of Flight 223's cancellation Friday, BA224 departing from Washington-Dulles at 8:35 a.m. Saturday was canceled, because no plane was available. Another flight, 222, was canceled Thursday for the same reason.

U.S. officials said Friday that specific information about Flight 223 had prompted the cancellations. According to these officials, intelligence from an informant and other sources regarding British Airways Flight 223 is what led to that flight's cancellations.

The sources said the information had nothing to do with the passenger list, but focused on the flight number. And while there remained some question about the credibility of the information, officials say authorities cannot take chances.

At least 10 international flights have been either canceled or delayed for security reasons since Wednesday, primarily flights involving British Airways, but two AeroMexico flights and an Air France flight were stopped as well.

British Airways Flight 263, from London to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, scheduled for Saturday, was canceled because of security concerns. This caused Flight 262 from Riyadh to London to be canceled for lack of a plane to make the trip.

Other British Airways flights were scheduled to operate as scheduled Sunday, according to its Web site.

A top U.S. official said Friday U.S. flights would only be canceled if there were "specific intelligence" indicating a possible attack.

"In some cases, it's necessary based upon that (intelligence) to cancel that flight," Asa Hutchinson, the U.S. undersecretary for border and transportation security, told CNN.

"We make the judgments based upon the security measures that are in place, the risk that's assessed, coordination with the other government—and I think we've made some really good decisions," Hutchinson said.

The Department of Homeland Security raised the nation's terror alert in December to Code Orange, the second-highest level on the five-tiered system, saying al Qaeda might use international flights to launch attacks on the United States.

U.S. counterterrorism officials have said al Qaeda wants to launch an attack more spectacular than the September 11, 2001 attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people in the United States.


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