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Continental Airlines Cuts Flight

Security Threat Prompts Dulles-to-Houston Cancellation

By Sara Kehaulani Goo
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 2, 2004; Page A09

Continental Airlines yesterday canceled a second flight for security reasons, this time a domestic flight from Washington's Dulles International Airport that was scheduled to arrive in Houston during the Super Bowl.

The decision yesterday follows announcements made Saturday by Continental, Air France and British Airways to cancel a total of six flights from Europe to the United States because of a possible terrorism threat, including a concern that terrorists might target the flights to use or transport chemical, radiological or biological materials.

Continental had already canceled Flight 17 yesterday from Glasgow, Scotland, to Los Angeles. Air France canceled two flights from Paris to Washington Dulles yesterday and today, and British Airways canceled a flight yesterday to Miami and a flight to Washington from London's Heathrow Airport, citing security reasons. British Airways also canceled the same London-to-Washington Dulles Flight 223 today.

The Department of Homeland Security denied that the intelligence prompting concern about Flight 1519, which was scheduled to depart Dulles at 5:44 pm and land at 8:10 pm CST at George Bush Interncontinental Airport, was related to the football game. The agency coordinated stepped-up security measures for the event with local police and other agencies, which included flight restrictions over the area and deploying equipment to detect weapons of mass destruction.

Homeland Security worked closely with Continental's management "to share credible threat information about potential threats to that flight," spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said. "Acting on that information, Continental, in close cooperation with DHS, chose to cancel the flight."

Continental spokesman David Messing characterized the flight cancellations differently, saying the airline did not receive "security clearances" to operate the flight from Homeland Security. Continental, which is based in Houston, rebooked passengers yesterday on its other flights at no charge.

A U.S. official familiar with the intelligence reports that prompted the flight cancellations said there were no indications that additional flights would be canceled.

Passengers whose flights were canceled yesterday and today were rebooked on other flights at no charge or offered refunds, spokesmen for the airlines said.

British Airways was able to book most passengers on canceled Flight 223 from London's Heathrow to Washington Dulles on its two other daily flights to Dulles. Air France said it accommodated passengers on one of its 10 other scheduled flights this week to Washington or booked passengers on other carriers.

© 2004 The Washington Post Company