- The Washington Times - Monday, February 2, 2004

From combined dispatches

Continental Airlines canceled a flight last night from Washington to Houston after security concerns were raised by the Homeland Security Department.

The flight had been scheduled to depart from Washington Dulles International Airport and would have arrived in Houston during the NFL’s Super Bowl championship game.

Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said Flight 1519 was canceled “due to security concerns and threat reporting about that particular flight.”

He added that the federal agency and Continental “worked closely on the matter,” but did not give any further details of the threat.

Security remained tight at airports across the United States yesterday, sparked by concern of a terrorist attack by al Qaeda.

Security concerns forced the cancellations of 10 flights between Britain or France and the United States, which airline officials feared could be used for attacks like those of September 11, 2001.

In Houston, Continental spokesman David Messing said yesterday’s domestic flight was canceled “because we were unable to get security clearance from the Department of Homeland Security.”

Mr. Messing said he did not know what security concerns the agency had and that passengers were being booked on other flights.

The flight was scheduled to take off from Dulles at 5:45 p.m. EST and arrive at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston at 8:10 p.m. CST.

Flight 1519’s scheduled arrival in Houston was less than three hours after the Super Bowl kicked off at Reliant Stadium, approximately 27 miles from the Houston airport. However, a U.S. official said the flight cancellation was not connected specifically to the Super Bowl.

A Continental Airlines flight yesterday from Glasgow, Scotland, to Los Angeles, with an intermediate stop in Newark, N.J., was canceled late Saturday because of security concerns, but there was no indication whether that was related to the Washington-Houston cancellation.

The canceled international flights were prompted by perceived threats from Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network.

“There was specific credible threat information that was shared with some foreign governments, including the British and French governments, and the decisions were made to cancel these flights,” said a Homeland Security Department source, who asked not to be identified.

“We remain concerned about al Qaeda’s desire to target international aviation.”

The official said there were no plans to raise the nation’s threat level, which has been at “elevated” since Jan. 9.

Three airlines — Air France, British Airways and Continental Airlines — grounded the trans-Atlantic flights.

“We have canceled the [flights] for security reasons, so as a result, the return flights on those same days … have also been canceled,” said Marie-Joseph Male, vice president and general manager of Air France USA.

The British carrier said on its Web site the flights had been halted for “security reasons.”

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