by Peter Barker
LONDON, Dec. 27 (Xinhua) -- Security at airports across Britain has been tightened in the wake of the failed terror attack on a passenger jet in the United States. Trans-Atlantic flights were the focus of extra security.
British Airways said that all passengers bound for the United States would undergo extra screening along with their luggage. The hand luggage allowance on flights to the United States was also immediately reduced to one item.
"For all customers departing on a flight from Heathrow or Gatwick to the U.S. only one item of hand luggage is allowed," the airline said in a statement. "Customers traveling to other destinations outside the United States are not affected."
BAA, which runs Heathrow Airport in London as well as four other airports across the country, said that there were delays on trans-Atlantic flights as a result of increased security measures.
"Passengers traveling to the United States should expect their airline to carry out additional security checks prior to boarding," the company said in a statement.
A Department for Transport spokeswoman said "The U.S. authorities have requested additional measures for U.S.-bound flights."
As well as a limit on carry-on luggage, U.S.-bound passengers were being body-searched.
At Heathrow Airport there were delays of up to two and a half hours as a result of the extra security precautions.
The increased security came after a failed bid to blow up a Northwest Airlines jet at Detroit airport in northern United States' Michigan State.
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, aged 23, a Nigerian, is alleged to have boarded a plane in Lagos in Nigeria and transferred onto a trans-Atlantic flight at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport in the Netherlands.
The U.S. Justice Department said Abdulmutallab, a former student at the University College of London, had been charged with attempting to blow up the Airbus A330 as it approached Detroit on Christmas Day.
The failed attack led to a request from the U.S. Department of Transportation to airports around the world to strengthen their security.
Janet Napolitano, the secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, said in a statement "Passengers flying from international locations to U.S. destinations may notice additional security measures in place. These measures are designed to be unpredictable, so passengers should not expect to see the same thing everywhere.
"Due to the busy holiday travel season, both domestic and international travelers should allot extra time for check-in."
Transport Secretary Lord Adonis told the BBC "We've agreed with the U.S. authorities' enhanced search regimes for passengers on flights to and from the United States.
"They will lead to delays in flights to the U.S., which I'm sure passengers will understand in the circumstances."
Previous terror attacks have sparked security alerts at British airports. Several months after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks British citizen Richard Reid attempted to blow up an American Airlines flight from Paris to Miami in the southern U.S. state of Florida. He failed to set off his bomb, using a detonator hidden in his shoes and earned the nickname Shoe Bomber. He is serving a life sentence in an American prison.
In early 2003, troops and armored vehicles from the Household Division, more usually found in London mounting guard outside Buckingham Palace, were deployed around Heathrow Airport as a result of warnings that al-Qaida might launch a terror attack.
In June, 2007, two men attacked Glasgow Airport in Scotland with a vehicle loaded with petrol and gas. They were foiled in their attempt, and one of the attackers died of wounds a month later and the other is in a British prison.
In September this year a gang of three men were convicted of plotting to attack seven airliners bound for the United States and Canada from London, with the presiding judge saying that if the attacks had gone ahead it would have been an atrocity to rank with the 9/11 attacks. The three men were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 28 to 40 years.