Airlines Take Security Alert in Stride

There is fear that the impact of new airport and airline security measures may hurt air carriers just as they are emerging from a long money-losing stretch. Renee Montagne talks to David Field, Americas editor of Airline Business Magazine.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Our business news starts with how U.S. airlines are dealing with new security restrictions.

There were extensive flight cancellations and delays yesterday after British authorities revealed they had broken up a plot to use liquid explosives to blow up passenger aircraft flying between the United Kingdom and the United States.

Joining us now in the studio is David Field. He is the America's editor of Airline Business Magazine. Good morning, David.

Mr. DAVID FIELD (Editor, Airline Business Magazine): Good morning.

MONTAGNE: In response to the British terror alert, U.S. officials banned most liquids from all carry-on baggage. How will these new regulations affect travel in the U.S.? Make it that much worse?

Mr. FIELD: It'll make it that much more difficult. We'll have to form a new sort of packing mentality. The things that you always carried with you because you were afraid the airlines would lose them, you're going to have to trust the airlines or leave them at home. That means things like colognes, deodorants, toothpaste. It's probably also going to cover cell phones, BlackBerrys, stuff like that.

If you want to get into the specifics of what you can and can't carry, go to the website of your airline, or better yet, go to a Web site called Airlines.org. That's the Air Transport Association. There they've posted all of the relevant DHS documents, and they go into great detail.

MONTAGNE: Although they also said it was temporary. Is there hope in that or - who knows?

Mr. FIELD: Restrictions don't tend to get lifted. They tend to become permanent. But - who knows.

MONTAGNE: Okay, airlines were just starting to make a financial comeback from the really terrible time they had after 9-11. How does this compare?

Mr. FIELD: You know, this is the interesting question. 9-11 obviously was a body blow to the airlines and to the U.S. economy. But if you look at the terrorist incidents since then, particularly the London subway bombings, the two bombings of July of last year, the Russian airplane bombings, even the Indian train bombings, they haven't had a terrible effect on U.S.-Europe air travel. They haven't had a terrible effect on global air travel.

There have been tiny dents, oh, upping premium travel, up in the front of the airplane, in, you know, in the first class cabin. But by and large, they have not caused the airlines to stumble. And I do not think that the recovery we're starting to see will be derailed by this. It could well be derailed by the economy, by consumer spending, by crazy oil prices. But this alone - I think travelers have learned that terrorism is there. It's always in the background. I think people sort of assimilate it and don't plan on it as a major factor.

On the other hand, because this was so specifically targeted at airlines and at U.S. flag airlines, it may have a little effect. But no, this will not end the recovery.

MONTAGNE: And Labor Day is less than a month away. How will holiday travel be affected?

Mr. FIELD: It'll be more inconvenient, but I think people catch on very quickly to the new rules and restrictions. What's interesting is if the airlines will have a really big sale, particularly big international sale, between now and Labor Day to get people over whatever fears they may have, to get people over whatever worries about the recession, about the economy that they may have. And for that we'll just have to stay tuned.

MONTAGNE: And is this going to be troublesome for all U.S. flights or just certain flights - shorter ones, or transcontinental ones?

Mr. FIELD: It's going to be most troublesome to business travelers, the kind of people who travel with a lot of stuff. It's probably also going to be a particular hassle for family travelers. But it may deter some people from taking the shorter flights, the shuttle type flights, which are very lucrative for the airlines, because of the hassle factor. Shuttles between...

MONTAGNE: Right.

Mr. FIELD: ...Washington and New York are already off. This may make it worse.

MONTAGNE: David, thanks very much. David Field is America's editor of Airline Business magazine.

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