- The Washington Times - Friday, August 30, 2002

The Bush administration yesterday dropped a plan to ban foreign-owned airlines on Sept. 11 from flying near the sites of the terrorist attacks, a White House source said.
The reversal came after airlines expressed concern yesterday that the ban was discriminatory because it didn't include domestic commercial carriers.
The ban would have restricted foreign-owned carriers, private-charter airlines and small private planes from flying into Washington and New York.
But domestic carriers wouldn't have faced flight restrictions under the proposal, even though the four planes hijacked September 11 belonged to U.S. airlines. Hijackers commandeered two American Airlines planes and two United Airlines planes and killed more than 3,000 people in New York, Arlington and rural Pennsylvania.
Private carriers and foreign airlines "are very upset, to say the least," Federal Aviation Administration spokesman William Shumann said.
Under the proposed flight ban, foreign-owned carriers would have been prohibited from flying within a 30-mile radius of Washington, New York or Shanksville, Pa., from 8 a.m. to noon and from 3:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sept. 11. Some restrictions would have remained in place through Sept. 13.
Small aircraft would have been prohibited from flying to and from New York from 7 a.m. Sept. 11 to 8 p.m. Sept. 13.
The restrictions were intended to coincide with ceremonies in each area.
They didn't stem from a specific terrorist threat, said Gordon Johndroe, spokesman for the Office of Homeland Security.
"We possess no information at this time that the September 11 commemoration events are specific targets," Mr. Johndroe said.
Some temporary flight restrictions in Washington, New York and Shanksville are imminent because President Bush will attend ceremonies in each city.
Rather than single out foreign airlines, the administration could modify the plan to include domestic carriers.
"But no decision has been made on flight restrictions," Mr. Johndroe said.
An interagency group including the Federal Aviation Administration, Transportation Department and Transportation Security Agency intelligence agencies is scheduled to meet today and could complete work to modify Sept. 11 flight restrictions.
The International Air Transport Association questioned the wisdom of singling out foreign airlines.
"It invites foreign countries to take actions against U.S. airlines," said Wanda Warner, spokeswoman for the International Air Transport Association, a Montreal group that represents 268 airlines, including 94 with regular service to U.S. airports.
FAA officials outlined the proposed ban for airlines on Tuesday. It was not clear whether the administration could restrict foreign flights because such a ban could violate international aviation treaties, according to foreign carriers.
"There are active discussions ongoing with regard to what type of restrictions, if any, would be put in place," Transportation Department spokesman Len Alcivar said. "It's all under review. We'll work with foreign carriers and domestic carriers to come up with a solution that's sensible and consistent with the need for security on September 11."
Sources said intelligence officials, not the Transportation Department or FAA, developed the flight restrictions.
A ban could affect hundreds of flights to and from Washington Dulles International Airport, Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, John F. Kennedy International Airport, LaGuardia International Airport and Newark (N.J.) International Airport.
British Airways spokesman John Lampl said the airline has 20 daily flights from airports in Washington, New York and New Jersey that would be affected by a flight ban, including its Concorde supersonic flights.
"We're hopeful the rules will be less restrictive," he said.
Also yesterday, the Transportation Department ended its policy of requiring ticket agents to ask passengers whether their luggage had been handled by strangers. The department has decided that the questions were not effective in preventing illegal activity.

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