A Rotorua woman in England says airports were left in chaos as travellers arrived to find flights cancelled due to a terrorist alert.

Daily Post deputy editor Jill Nicholas, who is holidaying in England, said travellers turned up to airports in droves despite pleas to stay away after a plot to blow up several United States-bound aircraft was uncovered.

Mrs Nicholas had passed through Gatwick airport the day before London was placed on high security alert.

The journey had been incident free.

However, yesterday London airports were on high alert.

"Chaos reigned inside and outside the terminals," Mrs Nicholas said.

Early yesterday, British police and security services arrested 24 people in what they said was a plot to simultaneously blow up several aircraft bound for the United States by using explosives smuggled in hand luggage.

In Paris, French Interior Minister Nicholas Sarkozy said the group "appears to be of Pakistani origin."

In Britain, a police official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the investigation, said the suspects were "homegrown," though it was not immediately clear if they were all British citizens.

He said authorities were working with Britain's large South Asian community.

The US government said the terror scheme was international in scope and "suggestive of an al-Qaida plot".

Mrs Nicholas said she was apprehensive about her flight back to New Zealand via Hong Kong in a few weeks time, but not scared.

Travellers in the UK are being encouraged to check in for flights four hours before departure, and major airlines are placing restrictions on hand luggage.

Mrs Nicholas said she was concerned she may not be able to take money and personal effects on to the plane.

Although not concerned about flying, Mrs Nicholas had been hesitant about using London's tube railway system and had instead taken a bus.

The suspects arrested in the airline bomb plot in Britain had planned to conceal liquid or gel explosives inside a modified sports beverage drink container and trigger the device with the flash from a disposable camera, ABC News reported.

The network, citing US sources, also said five additional suspects in the airline bomb plot foiled by British police were still at large and being sought. "The plotters planned to leave the top of the bottle sealed and filled with the original beverage but add a false bottom, filled with a liquid or gel explosive," ABC said.

"The terrorists planned to dye the explosive mixture red to match the sports drink sealed in the top half of the container."

British police declined to comment on the report that five suspects remained on the loose. *Additional reporting Reuters.
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