British Airways announced in a statement posted on its Web site, ”Following the latest advice from the U.K. government received this afternoon, British Airways has cancelled today’s flight BA223 from London Heathrow to Washington due to security reasons.”
The flight cancellation marks the third time in as many days that flight 223 has been disrupted or had its schedule altered due to security concerns. On New Year’s Eve, the flight was held on the tarmac at Washington’s Dulles International Airport for more than two hours while security officials questioned passengers and crew.
“It was an unfortunate occurrence and our apologies are extended to the passengers who were delayed and detained,” said FBI spokeswoman Debbie Weierman, according to The Washington Post. “What was paramount is the safety and security of passengers on the plane.”
Intelligence sources were quoted by several news organizations as saying that specific information was behind the decision to target only one of the three daily British Airways flights to Dulles airport.
“We had concerns with individuals on the flight,” an unnamed U.S. national security official told the Associated Press.
A number of other international flights have also been cancelled, delayed, or disrupted due to security concerns.
An Air France flight on its way to Paris from New York made an unscheduled stop in Canada on Thursday so security officials could check the passenger list against checked luggage. Officials reportedly believed the flight might be carrying unaccompanied bags.
On New Year’s Eve, U.S. Homeland Security officials refused to allow a flight from Mexico City to Los Angeles.
“They said it was for security reasons but never specifically explained the reasons behind it,” said Agustin Gutierrez Canet, spokesman for Mexican President Vicente Fox, according to The Washington Post.
Last week six Air France flights from Paris to Los Angeles were cancelled because of security concerns. On Tuesday Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said some of the extra security and flight disruptions were “based upon advanced information on several passengers.”
Some incoming international flights have also been escorted by U.S. fighter planes, the Post reported.