STEVE INSKEEP, host:
Airlines have also suffered this year. And last Friday's attempted jetliner bombing doesn't help. Most of the major carriers saw their stock prices fall yesterday. The fear is that increased security and a general sense of unease could make travelers less willing to fly.
NPR's Wade Goodwyn has the view from one of the country's busiest airport, Dallas-Fort Worth.
WADE GOODWYN: If there are long lines at some Canadian airports for U.S. bound travelers, at DFW's International terminal, all is quiet on the Western front.
Unidentified Woman: Please help us secure your safety while visiting the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.
GOODWYN: Passengers are walking straight to the counter at American Airlines, grabbing their tickets, and winding their way through the security maze, and right up to the X-ray machine as sunlight pours into the terminal out of a stunningly blue sky.
Hector Gonzalez is a service engineer for a German company that makes X-ray equipment. Although he often travels on business, today he's going with his wife to San Juan, Puerto Rico. He, for one, is chagrined that an accused terrorist that U.S. authorities had been warned about had nevertheless managed to slip bomb-making material on board a U.S. aircraft.
Mr. HECTOR GONZALEZ (Service Engineer): Appalled that all the safety measures and all the precautions that we're taking lately still allow for such a thing to happen.
GOODWYN: If Gonzalez is dismayed at this federal dropping of the ball, he is not however afraid to get on board his airplane.
Mr. GONZALEZ: Frankly, I'm really not concerned. I've seen the security. I feel quite safe.
GOODWYN: The alleged attempt to blow Northwest Flight 253 out of the sky over Detroit failed. The suspect was arrested, and for many if not most of the flying public, life goes on.
As Glen Smith waited at baggage claim for his college-aged daughter to return home for her Christmas break, he said one had to be realistic.
Mr. GLEN SMITH: People are trying to kill us, and I don't think there's anything you can do to stop 100 percent of them. You know, what can you do? If somebody is paying you to go somewhere, you've got to go.
GOODWYN: Many airline CEOs believe they are just now seeing light at the end of the tunnel unless, of course, this incident kills their international business travel.
Robert W. Mann Jr., is one of the country's leading airline industry consultants. Mann says fear is not the issue; inconvenience is.
Mr. ROBERT MANN (Airline Industry Consultant): Even for a trip of six hours like London-New York, the idea that you would lose three hours on each end of the trip makes it questionable.
GOODWYN: If international airport security tightens the screws and extends delays, they may damage their slowly rebounding airline industry and their economies. It is too early to tell. Not until the first full week after the holidays are over will the airline industry have any sense of where things stand.
Mann says he is pleased that the Obama administration is conducting a top-to-bottom review of the TSA and its security processes which he believes have largely been a failure.
Mr. MANN: And I would go further to say that I'd like to see the next billion dollars invested in - not in technology with X-rays and puffer machines, but rather essentially police work done offshore to locate people who would do harm - whoever they may be, wherever they may be - and before they ever get to an airport. Airport is a particularly bad last line of defense for any kind of process like this.
GOODWYN: Mann is not worried about the next would-be terrorist trying to conduct another ill conceived and hastily attempted chemistry experiment on board an aircraft. He frets about the soft underbelly of the nation's airports, with their long lines of tightly clustered people waiting together to go through security and into the safe side of the terminal. He knows more puffer machines will not stop suicide bombers wrapped in vests of C-4 plastique.
Wade Goodwyn, NPR News, Dallas.
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