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Travel Industry Reeling From Terrorist Attacks


President Bush is urging Americans to "get on the airlines" as he put it. But many people are not.

Instead, they are canceling business and personal travel in such numbers that analysts say some of the nation's commercial airlines may find it difficult to survive.

The employees at Premiere Travel, outside Washington, are busy taking calls and booking trips, many of them for business travel. Still, the travel industry as a whole is losing billions of dollars. Normally packed planes are flying half empty, amid fears of continuing threats to air safety. Hotels are reporting minimal occupancy and laying off workers. Even travel agencies are feeling the pinch.

Travel agents say clients are worried not only about the security of the nation's skies, but about being stuck away from home if there were another terrorist attack.

"We already heard this morning that Renaissance Cruise Lines was closing down," said Ramsey Bordcosh, Premiere Travel's managing director, who has seen business drop by at least 50 percent. "U.S. Metro Jet airline closed down. So, any businesses that were operating on very low margins and losing money, this is going to be the death sentence for them."

Delta Airlines chairman Leo Mullin, who runs the largest airline at the world's busiest airport Atlanta's, has announced he will go the rest of this year without taking a paycheck in a show of solidarity with the thousands of Delta employees facing layoffs.

Other airlines have also announced massive cutbacks, which are beginning to ripple through the entire travel industry, affecting mainly low wage service workers in jobs at hotels, restaurants, even taxi drivers are affected. "In the short term, there's no doubt in anyone's mind that the industry is going through historic losses right now," he said. "For the airlines, they were having a rough time already."

Cathy Keefe, spokeswoman for the Travel Industry Association thinks some airlines, already feeling the pinch of a slowing economy before the attacks, may go bankrupt. "America West has been saying that they feel they are going to have a hard time making it," she said. "U.S. Air is having a hard time right now."

Upscale resorts, spas, cruise lines and hotels are now slashing prices, hoping to lure back skittish vacation travelers with packages that would normally be priced out of their budget. British Airways says it will introduce special promotions for its trans-Atlantic Concorde flights, once the supersonic jet returns to service.

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