The Scene at London's Heathrow Airport

Officials have grounded or delayed many flights departing from London's Heathrow Airport after British officials say they uncovered an alleged terrorist plot to plot to blow up several transatlantic flights to the United States.

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Madeleine Brand.

The crowds are now thinning out at London's Heathrow airport. Thousands of passengers were stranded this morning after authorities grounded flights to and from Europe. Many flights from the U.S. were also cancelled. For people who are able to get on a flight, they will not be allowed to take on any carry-on items, and that includes purses, laptops and cell phones.

NPR's Deb Amos flew into Heathrow from Damascus this morning and she joins us now. And Deb, we were just a short while ago seeing TV images of mobs at Heathrow airport. Where did everyone go?

DEB AMOS reporting:

Well, most of those flights have thinned out, and some of the domestic flights and those into Europe have been cancelled. So the mob was this morning. I was surprised at how few people there were as I got off the plane and headed for passport control. Most people really didn't know what had happened, and you saw at each of the transit desks British Airlines to people about what they were going to have to do about their hand luggage, because they are transit passengers and they had tons of hand luggage. So that is part of what a lot of the delays are about, people figuring out what to do with the hand luggage.

BRAND: And what are they doing with their hand luggage?

AMOS: Well, they are packaging it up in plastic bags and they are checking it. You know, a lot of people found out because when they landed, people now can get their emails on their telephones. So as soon as they landed, people have a habit now of turning on their phones and reading their emails. So a lot of the passengers knew what was up for them when they were going to get off the plane, and it was a great sharing of information for those who had the latest details of what had happened in London.

BRAND: Of course now they have to check their cell phones.

AMOS: They will have to check their cell phones. So they'll be blind the next time. But it was comforting to know, we got an announcement on our plane that there had been a security alert at Heathrow, but no one told us precisely what that would mean. We were held on the tarmac for about an hour, and I think that they are just getting around to clearing out the crowds here, both on the tarmac itself and inside the terminal.

BRAND: So what's the mood there like among the passengers? Are they stoic about it or are they angry?

AMOS: Most of the Brits I talked to here were very stoic. I spoke to a driver whose job it is to bring passengers out to the airport, and he said, I didn't have one passenger that cancelled a flight today. And he was very proud of that. And he said this is what you have to do to answer terrorism. I spoke to a mother who is bringing her seven children on a Safari in Darussalam. And she said, you know, I kind of think today will be safer than any other day, security will be stepped up.

So people do want to get on their flights, they are willing to put up with the troubles with their hand luggage. I think people were very relieved that a plot like this was foiled before it was carried out. Certainly the people here at the airport have been very professional in calming passengers, giving them information. People know as soon as they walk in what the details of what details of what happen are and what is expected of them. And it's been really remarkably orderly.

BRAND: Deb, do you know how many flights are now allowed to take off and land there at Heathrow?

AMOS: I don't. We do know that in- and outbound to Europe have been cancelled. Everybody has been advised that there will be delays in any transit flights. I'm surprised, now that I know, that we got in from Damascus, Syria. But we left, I believe, early enough this morning that we weren't turned around. There were flights that were turned around.

But I think it's going to be a while before this backlog gets taken care of. A lot of the transit passengers were advised that it would be hours.

BRAND: And I imagine you'll be there for the foreseeable future.

AMOS: I think so.

BRAND: NPR's Deb Amos at London's Heathrow airport. Thank you.

AMOS: Thank you.

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