THE FUTURE OF AIR TRAVEL: Tougher rules coming
Serious changes: Air travel to become more restrictive
to deter terrorist attacks.
AMERICA UNDER ATTACK: TERROR IN THE SKIES
Dave Hirschman and Nancy Fonti - Staff
Heightened security at U.S. airports could mean fewer flights,
longer waits and higher prices, industry experts said in the wake
of the terrorist hijackings that turned four airliners into missiles.
"Air travel is no longer going to be for the masses,"
aviation consultant Mike Boyd said. "It's going to become
far more restricted. No airplane is going to be allowed to leave
the gate without being swept from nose to tail --- and no one
who comes near a commercial airliner is going to be allowed to
carry so much as a pocket knife."
Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta said security will tighten
but offered few specifics other than more thorough searches and
an elimination of curbside baggage check-in. Some predict more
sweeping reforms with baggage handling, passenger screening and
"There is going to have to be a balance struck between security
of air travel and the public's demand to travel," said Stuart
Klaskin, a consultant with Klaskin Kushner & Co. "Events
like this become something of a wake-up call and pave the way
for serious changes in security."
Tuesday's disaster turned a routine morning for airlines into
a nightmare. One minute, hundreds of planes were in the air, the
next, the entire U.S. airline fleet was ordered to the ground.
Managers and passengers alike were left to deal with a shutdown
of unprecedented scope and unknown duration --- along with the
horror of four crashes in one morning.
Like the targets of the attacks, the airlines involved are symbols
of America's global prowess. American Airlines and United Airlines
are the Nos. 1 and 2 carriers by revenue. The No. 3 U.S. carrier,
Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines, issued a statement late Tuesday
morning saying all its planes were accounted for. Chief executive
Leo Mullin led an executive team at an emergency center in Atlanta.
The team will determine how to effect any new security measures,
and manage the airline's restart when flights resume.
"It's going to be difficult to crystal ball until the (government)
provides some guidelines on any changes that would occur,"
Delta spokesman Todd Clay said. "I think it would be unfair
to make any judgments as to how this will change air travel."
Mullin and Joe Leonard, his counterpart at AirTran Airways, spoke
by phone to discuss security at Hartsfield International Airport,
where both operate hubs, an AirTran spokesman said.
Security improvements could boost travel and shipping costs, said
Ned Laird of Air Cargo Management Group in Seattle.
"The cost of air travel and shipping are bound to go up to
pay for that added security," he said, "and the burden
is going to fall on passengers and shippers."
U.S. air travelers could see armed guards with automatic weapons
in airports along with bomb-sniffing dogs and X-ray machines for
luggage, said Theodore Scherck of the Colography Group, an Atlanta
transportation consultancy. "Security is going to get a lot
tighter for everyone," he said. "The trick is pulling
it off without crippling the economy."
Pilots say the industry should consider armored cockpit door systems
or a double-door system with one door always locked. Cockpit doors
now are thin to allow for easy emergency exit and cut weight.
Besides altering the way airlines operate, the disaster could
worsen an industry financial slump. Most carriers have lost money
in 2001 amid slackening demand for travel.
"American and United will probably suffer the worst, but
every airline is going to be impacted," said John Wensveen,
a management professor at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University.
"Millions and millions of dollars will be lost."
Major airports could see flights cut 30 percent because of more
elaborate procedures, consultant Boyd said, with serious implications
for airlines. Discount carriers such as AirTran and Southwest,
for instance, rely on "quick turnarounds" to keep planes
airborne as much as possible.
"No airline will be able to do 15-minute turns anymore,"
Boyd said. "Things have permanently changed."
Air cargo lines such as United Parcel Service and Federal Express
are also likely to face tighter security, which could slow urgent
package shipments. Both have suspended service to New York and
Washington and waived time guarantees elsewhere.
In addition to the costs of a shutdown and added security, airlines
face an uncertain reaction by travelers. That could affect hotels,
cruise lines and big destinations such as Disney World, which
closed Tuesday but was to reopen today.
Dawn Salomone, manager of AAA Travel in Marietta, said her office
was quiet Tuesday afternoon, with few calls for either cancellations
or new bookings.
"I think people want to pretty much stick close to home right
now," she said. "People are watching TV. They are shocked.
It's very hard to tell what's going to happen."
--- Paula Crouch Thrasher contributed to this article.