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Airlines Decide Who Should Pay for Alert

"Since 9/11, everyone in the industry has known there might be times when extra security measures needed to be put in place," British Airways Chief Executive Willie Walsh told the Daily Mirror newspaper. "Yet when the moment struck, BAA had no plan ready to keep the airport functioning."

Budget airline Ryanair Holdings PLC also canceled more flights Tuesday from Stansted, its key London airport.

"This morning, we had a situation where, despite assurances to the contrary, the staff were not in place," said Ryanair spokesman Peter Sherrard. "An hour before scheduled flights, there were still only half the 14 security points open."

Ryanair, which said it has seen a 10 percent dropoff in bookings since Thursday, said it was considering legal action against the government in order to reduce security screening delays at airports. It said it would consider compensation after it dealt with the current logistical issues.

It said the current restrictions, which still bar any liquids from being taken through security points, should be reviewed or alternatively police or army personnel should be deployed to speed up the screening of passengers.

Virgin Atlantic Airways said it was considering all options and was prepared to discuss compensation with BAA.

"Airlines have incurred substantial costs in the past few days, collectively running into millions of pounds and clearly we need to consider all the options for possible contributions to these costs, whether it be possible rebates, compensation or government support," it said in a statement.

However, no-frills carrier easyJet PLC said it had no plans to join in any attempt to sue BAA for compensation. Spokeswoman Samantha Day said BAA had dealt with the crisis as best as it could and the industry was better off discussing how to cope with future alerts.

BAA said it was working on the assumption that the current security regime would be maintained for the foreseeable future and it had begun working on bringing in additional staff and strengthening its security system.

The airport operator said it had added about 1,500 security guards to its security team since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, bringing the total to 6,000.

BAA owns and operates airports that handle 63 percent of travelers to and from Britain _ a figure that rises to 86 percent in Scotland and to 92 percent in London.

Britain's competition watchdog is considering a detailed inquiry into the domestic airport market and whether BAA's dominance delivers the best value for air travelers.

A full probe by the Competition Commission, which was mooted in the middle of the takeover battle for the airports operator in May, could complicate any bid from airlines for compensation.

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© 2006 The Associated Press