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Airline Industry Suffered Massive Losses After September 11 - 2002-09-11


Perhaps no industry has suffered more than air transportation from the September 11 attacks.

On September 11, 2001 four civilian aircraft were turned into instruments of terror. And the airline industry is still feeling the repercussions.

William Gaillard is a spokesman for the International Air Transport Association, known as IATA. He says in the wake of the terrorist attacks, emergency security measures were initiated, some of which were more burdensome than effective.

The IATA official says these measures are part of the reason fewer people are willing to fly. "We feel that a lot of the reduction in traffic in the United States is due to what we call the 'hassle factor.' Delta Airlines, for example, told us it will probably lose about $600 million this year just on that, passengers that are deterred from flying because of the long lines, because of the hassle of going through the security checks and screenings," he said.

Mr. Gaillard says there are ways to screen people more effectively and more quickly. One method is to set up a "trusted flyer program." It would involve issuing cards to people who have flown for many years and who are known to be law-abiding citizens. They could be screened separately and quickly. He says another measure involves the use of new technology. "We have ways to positively identify people quickly, make sure that people who carry an ID are actually the people who should be carrying it," said William Gaillard. "And we can deliver to them their boarding pass and put them through immigration right at the same time, in a few seconds, by just identifying some features that are unique in their physical appearance. It can be the iris of their eyes, the palm of their hand, the geometry of their face, the shape of their ears, their fingerprints."

Mr. Gaillard says this so-called biometric data can be coded onto a card to identify passengers. He says IATA does not support arming flight crews with guns as a security measure. The organization says a better idea is to have sky marshals on planes to prevent hijackings.

IATA reports that 400,000 air transport workers have lost their jobs since September 11. Mr. Gaillard says the industry has suffered a massive financial loss. "The airlines lost, overall, $18 billion," he said. "This is more than what they ever made since commercial flying started about 80 years ago. In terms of 2002, we have figures for international scheduled traffic, which shows losses between $4 billion and $6 billion."

Mr. Gaillard says plane travel in the United States, South America and the Mideast still has not recovered from the effects of September 11. The one bright spot is Europe, where he says air travel has begun to rebound.

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