London terrorist attempts cause chaos at Lisbon airport

PORTUGUESE AIRPORTS, including Lisbon’s Portela International Airport, were thrown into chaos on Thursday last week, after a major terrorist plot to blow up a series of US bound transcontinental jetliners was foiled by British intelligence in London.

Scotland Yard Anti Terrorist Branch informed both the Portuguese Polícia Judiciária (PJ) and Spanish Intelligence Services that a well advanced plan to detonate liquid explosive devices aboard up to seven Heathrow outward bound Contental, American and United Airlines jets on Friday, August 11, had been prevented with the arrest of 24 ‘homegrown’ British Asian Muslims from London and Birmingham.

The Portuguese and Spanish authorities received initial preliminary information about the terrorist threat from Scotland Yard’s Serious Organised Crime Agency on the morning of August 10. The information given so far has not established any link between the terrorist attempt and the Iberian Peninsula.

In Portugal, both the PJ and the Serviço de Informação de Segurança (SIS) were forced to step up security and vigilance at Portuguese airports. The news caused chaos at Lisbon airport for TAP and British Airways staff, as the latter was forced to cancel all flights out of Lisbon and TAP only managed three departures later on in the day.

The Resident spoke with British Airways check-in girl, Sofia Nogueira, who said that the airport concourse in front of BA and TAP desks were besieged with anxious and worried travellers wanting to know exactly what was going on. “Initially, there was little information and people were naturally worried, but then, as information filtered through, people became much calmer and stood in line, accepting the situation with good grace,” she said.

A similar situation happened in Porto, where all BA flights to and from London were cancelled, while the London-bound flight out of Faro scheduled for 6.25pm didn’t leave until 7.20pm. The only BA flight out of Funchal, which had been due for take off at 12.10am, did not leave its chocks until 4pm.

Around lunchtime, British Airways began distributing a leaflet that read: “All flights today bound to and from London Heathrow/Lisbon have been cancelled.” The document also advised passengers of the impossibility of carrying any electrical equipment in hand luggage or any containers for liquids on board. The passengers, including many British citizens, headed straight for the British Airways Ticket Desk to make new reservations and exchange their tickets as promised by the company.

The security situation was made clearer after lunch by the airport security authority’s spokesman, Fernando Coelho (National Aviation Institute), who said that Portugal was only on Green Alert.