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Airlines Admit Recovery from September 11 Will Take Years - 2001-10-31

At a meeting this week of the International Labor Organization in Geneva, airline industry officials vowed to adopt new safety measures to restore public confidence in air travel. But the officials acknowledge that, whatever they do, it will take years for the industry to recover from what happened on September 11.

Aviation officials say the terrorist attacks dealt the airline industry the worst shock it has ever experienced.

Many international carriers, such as Swissair and United Airlines, are struggling to stay in the skies, and an estimated 200,000 people out of four million employed in the air transportation industry worldwide are expected to lose their jobs because of the attacks.

One of the officials at the Geneva meeting, Edward Stimpson, the U.S. representative to the International Civil Aviation Organization, said that, to restore public confidence in flying, the airlines will have to adopt safety procedures that are far more wide-ranging than those that were in effect before September 11. "The security measures we have today never assumed that the airplane would be used as a weapon of mass destruction. Consequently, we have to change our basic approach to this whole new threat," he said.

The International Civil Aviation Organization is responsible for establishing airline safety standards. Mr. Stimpson says it is now examining security procedures worldwide and will be conducting security audits in airports around the globe. But he says it is up to individual countries to implement the necessary changes to tighten security.

According to Mr. Stimpson, air marshals on planes and improved screening procedures are just some of the new measures under consideration. "We will be looking at doors, transponders in cockpits so that you cannot turn off the device which alerts the controllers where you are," he said. "We will be looking at cockpit video cameras, biometrics of passports and machine readable passports."

The spokesman for the International Transport Workers Federation, Shane Enright, said stepped-up security will mean additional costs, which will probably be passed on to air travelers. "We can afford no weak links in our safety and security chain. That means a significant culture change not only on the part of the operators that have to improve safety measures, but also passengers," he said. "In the end, the passengers are going to have to pay for enhanced security."

Mr. Enright said it is hard to estimate just how long it might take to implement new airline safety measures. He emphasizes that only a uniform security system worldwide will safeguard against a repeat of the events of September 11.