The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has indicated a reversal of a long-held anti-terrorism policy, saying that European nations will not be penalised if they fail to place armed sky marshals on US-bound flights, writes Darren Shannon.

During a meeting with European Union counterparts, US undersecretary for border and transportation security Asa Hutchinson said the administration would consider "other measures" should EU countries legislate against the use of sky marshals.

The DHS is also positive that the US Congress will adopt a two-year extension to the 26 October deadline on biometric upgrades to the USA's Visa Waiver Program, as advocated last month by Department of State secretary Colin Powell.

When questioned during a press conference on the sky marshal programme, Hutchinson said: "From our perspective, sky marshals add a deterrent factor and a safety factor that we will always consider, but we will consider other measures as well."

He added: "We recognise that is not a security measure that is acceptable in all European countries. We obviously would not make that demand if armed marshals are not allowed under a particular country's laws, or they don't have the resources to do it."

Hutchinson also says the USA will not automatically threaten to turn European aircraft from its airspace, as once mooted, but that "cancelling any flight is a matter of last resort".

Denmark, Portugal and Sweden are included among a number of EU countries that have signalled that they would rather cancel flights than deploy sky marshals if there was a suspicion of an attack.

Source: Flight International