by Rudy Maxa for Marketplace
You may have heard that several airlines have been canceling some Sept. 11th flights, citing a lack of demand for tickets. So, we thought now might be a good time to revisit some of the flying issues that have cropped up since 9/11. Are security changes making flying safer, or only more difficult? What can an anxious flyer to do relieve worries about taking to the air? And will the country's major airlines ever return to profitability? We asked The Savvy Traveler's Rudy Maxa for some help.
flown lately, you might wonder what the airlines are complaining about,
since an empty middle seat is about as rare as a frequent-flyer award
ticket to Paris. But that's because airlines have cut back on schedules
to increase the number of passengers on each plane. In the first 6 months
of last year, for example, United carried more than 40 million passengers;
in the first 6 months of this year, the number was less than 33 million.
A lot of that is due to last Sept. 11, but the economy has led to a
reduction in business travel, too, and those tickets produce the revenue
that allow airlines to make money.
last September, I've flown exactly 91 flights, and I argue that the inconvenience
factor of new security rules has been grossly exaggerated, especially
in the last 9 months. By one important measure, flying is easier now:
the cutback in the number of flights has improved the on-time performance
of all airlines.
courses that aim to conquer the fear of flying, or "aviophobia," and I'll
list a couple below. Most folks, though, are just mildly nervous, and
for them I prescribe a dose of common sense. As for the question of when
airline profits will return, remember: The airline industry never encountered
a disaster like it did on Sept. 11, so making that kind of prediction
is futile. But given that the world has come to depend on airplanes, at
some point, profitability must return.
Savvy Traveler, I'm Rudy Maxa for Marketplace.
security better than it was a year ago?
Yes, carry-on luggage screeners are paying more attention to what's
on their screen. But as investigators have found, obvious stuff, like
knives and guns, still slips through. Some of the restrictions on
carry-on items are silly -- a bad guy can do as much damage with a
sturdy, sharp pen as with a corkscrew. There are sky marshals aboard
less than 3 percent of the nation's flights, and not much checked
luggage is screened due to lack of equipment. Passengers, however,
are more attuned to security issues, as evidenced by the thwarting
of the shoe bomber on that American Airlines trans-Atlantic flight.
a "trusted flyer" card the answer for speeding some passengers through
Not if it can be as easily duplicated as a driver's license...Biometrics
or fingerprint matching would be better, but we're a long way away
if your airplane is idling on a tarmac and you're suddenly seized
with a panic attack, and want to disembark?
There's no rule saying a plane must return to the gate, but if you're
really a wreck, the captain may authorize it. Keep in mind, though:
you may be met by police when you get off the plane.
can you do to put your mind at ease if you're wary of flying, but
find it's unavoidable?
Even considering the deaths on the four planes commandeered by hijackers
last September, commercial flying is statistically safer than it has
ever been. And, I always keep this in mind: I'm statistically more
likely to perish by slipping in a bathtub, getting struck by lightning,
or by getting kicked in the head by a donkey than by flying aboard
a commercial plane.
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