This week: Britain’s busy Friday, US automates passport control

Well, it has been a sort of a sluggish airport related news week with only a couple big stories. And funnily they both came in on the same day, from the same country and unfolded only kilometers apart from each other.

Let’s first look at another story that caught our interest this week though: In the United States PSFK reported that Chicago O’Hare airport (ORD) will be the first U.S. airport to use the Automated Passport Control computer program come July 1st. With that the online publisher reported that US passport holders will no longer need to fill out declaration cards when passing through customs; they only need to go through the self-service kiosks as part of the border clearance process. About time we say as other countries have had this technology for years.

Now to the two “week defining airport news stories”: They both came from – drum roll please – the United Kingdom. Both unfolded only kilometers away from each other and both happened on Friday local time. So, here’s the first one: Reuters reported that British fighter jets escorted a Pakistan International Airlines passenger plane to Stansted Airport (STN) near London on Friday, where police went on board and arrested two men on suspicion of endangering an aircraft. According to the article Flight PK709 from Lahore in Pakistan had been due to land at Manchester in northern England with 297 passengers on board, but was diverted shortly before arrival. The article also stated that Stansted is one of London’s less busy airports, preferred as a location for handling airplane security incidents. A spokesman for the airport said the plane was being held in an isolated area and that the rest of the airport was operating as normal.

And then the second British news story unfolded only 70km (42 miles) away from Stansted: CNN reported that London’s Heathrow Airport (LHR) had to close of both its runways forced by an emergency landing on Friday. The video article said that a British Airways plane bound for Oslo was forced to make the emergency landing “due to a technical fault” and flight BA762 turned back less than half an hour after taking off for the Norwegian capital. The Airbus A319 aircraft was carrying 75 passengers and five crew members, the airline said. The passengers were evacuated from the plane on emergency slides. Even though CNN reported the airport back fully operational later that day Heathrow Airport warned of disruption to travel that could last all day. And it couldn’t have come at a worse time as Monday is a public holiday in Britain and many people would have taken flights for their long weekend.

That’s all for this week – safe travels!

[Graphic from LateDeparture edited from Wikipedia’s United Kingdom graphic – all rights reserved]