A terrorist plot to blow up planes in mid-flight from the UK to the US has been disrupted, Scotland Yard has said. According to MI5's website, "an attack is expected imminently and indicates an extremely high level of threat to the UK".
At the time of writing no bombs have gone off and no one has been killed or injured but it is still an attack on Heathrow. Finantial cost to airlines, companies supplying food, fuel and maintainance to the airlines, security and polices costs, fall in the stock market value of all major Airlines and in the general stock market. The human cost from some one just going away on holiday to the bussiness person on who's trip (now cancelled) depended the future of his company and the hundreds of people who work for him.
The world wide nature of air travel means that this attack will be felt round the world and will continue to be felt for weeks or months to come. And it is so easy to stage. Just let a word here and a word there get to the ears of our security services and Heathrow will be back up to war status before anyone can say, Hang on a moment.
OK; this is how it works. You make sure that you and a group of like minded people meet with terror suspects who you know are under police surveillance. Your group will now be under surveillance. Let it drop, gradually over months, that you are plotting something very big concerning flights to the USA. Now this next bit is most important. Make sure that there is never anything, neither documents nor materials in any of your houses, or on your person or your place of work that would lead to a conviction in a court of Law. Then when the security services are certain that you are about to hatch your plot a secondary source in Asia or America will appear to confirm that Heathrow will be attacked next week.
A massive police operation will be put into action. You and all your group will be arrested, Heathrow will be all but closed down.
The effect on major airports will in the short term be long delays for passengers and loss of revenue for the airlines and all associated industries. These delays and cancellations will last a few days. What will last much longer is the added burden such an operation will place on security at check-in. Check-ins will now and into the future take longer and will therefore cost more.
The effect of the police raids will be to widen the rifts which already exist within the community and to ensure that the hot heads in both the majority and the ethnic minorities continue to pick at the uneasy truce that exists in present day race relations. It will also make recruiting to the terrorist movement so much easier.
When no incriminating evidence is found to link the arrested suspects with any plot, confidence in the police and the government will fall, lessening their effectiveness. The police will face a decline in confidence as they begin to doubt the accuracy of their intelligence reports until a situation is created where "attack imminent," will have only one meaning. More delays at the airport, train station and bus terminal.
This strategy repeted time and again will in the end be more disruptive than 9/11 and the July bombings.