The transportation industry is among the businesses that were hard hit due to the terrorist events of Sept. 11. After that dreadful Tuesday, the tourist rates decreased so drastically in some parts of the country that many hotels, restaurants and businesses had to declare bankruptcy.
The airlines were the hardest hit, having to lay off thousands of workers because people were terrified of another attack. What many people fail to take into consideration is that many of these airlines were in trouble before the attacks on New York and Washington D.C. What they are trying to do now is get people flying again in what many believe is the safest time to fly, when security is high and passengers and crew having a heightened sense of awareness of what is going on around them.
After the attacks, the transportation industry is under extreme scrutiny regarding safety regulations and standards. The Philadelphia International Airport, one of the first airports to re-open on Sept. 12, claims that airlines are operating close to normal now with 95 percent of their daily service. In attempts to implement the latest security technologies, the airport has committed to spend more than $4 million. The hiring of 30 additional Philadelphia police officers, as well as the re-validation of more than 13,000 badges helping to ensure authorization into secure areas are just a few of the precautions being made.
There are strict rules regarding airline safety now. First of all, you should plan to arrive at least two hours before national flights and three hours before international flights due to longer lines and more in depth baggage checks. When you get to the airport, make sure that you have photo ID or two forms of non-photo ID, one of which must be government issued. Strict baggage checks are finding many common items, such as nail files, scissors, tweezers, disposable razors, sewing needles and other usual carry-on items that are now being confiscated. If you need to bring any of these items along on your trip, plan on checking your bag.
Only ticketed passengers are being allowed past the screening checkpoint. Exceptions are made for parents of unaccompanied minors and handicapped individuals. If someone is picking you up at the airport, make sure that they call ahead to confirm arrival time.
Only active loading and unloading is permitted curbside. Student Rachel Pass commented on what it was like when she went to pick up her parents at the airport. “There is tight security. You couldn’t leave your car there for more than 30 seconds without a police officer coming to say something to you,” Pass said.
With heightened security, there will also be air marshals trained to handle terrorists and hijackers, anonymously on board select flights. In order to make sure of the proper functioning of certain devices, passengers will be required to turn on laptops, cell phones and pagers as well as pass them through the X-ray machine.
Airlines are not the only travel industry that is being affected. Bus and train companies have put out safety recommendations for travel as well. The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority in Washington, D.C. has detoured metrobuses around the Pentagon and other areas of the city for security reasons and some shuttles have been shut down completely.
SEPTA has sent out a list of safety guidelines to follow including to be aware of your surroundings, never confront a suspicious person or touch a suspicious object, review emergency exit information and to review the location of safety equipment on vehicles. In a letter sent out by John K. Leary Jr., general manager of SEPTA, he says, “In recent years, SEPTA’s Transit Police Department has made extensive preparations for managing terrorist threats. Transit Police train and maintain constant communications with regional and federal emergency and law enforcement agencies. Since September’s terrorist attacks, Transit Police have been on a heightened state of alert, patrolling our stations, vehicles and other transit facilities.”
Chris Nielsen, marketing communications coordinator for the Transportation Management Association of Chester County, and recent graduate of Cabrini, said that ground transportation has not been affected to the degree that air traffic has. People are continuing to use buses and trains to get to work, just as they always have, but these forms of transportation are less likely to be used now for recreational purposes, mainly due to the economy. For people in the suburbs, the use of buses and trains are not as important, but for those in the city who depend on public transportation, life goes on as usual.
When asked whether there are security measures being taken for terminals, Nielsen said that metal detectors was an option, but if it were to happen, it would be far down the road.
One thing on everyone’s mind this year is where to go for spring break. Nielsen said that with the deals that are available right now through various airlines and with certain hotels “if you’re not afraid to fly, now is the year to do it.” Even if flying is not high up on your list, hotels and other attractions are offering great prices right now because business is way down.
Various cruise lines have gone bankrupt since the attacks and many more are just trying to stay afloat, which is bad news for them, but good news to the consumer. After the attacks, more than 10,000 people cancelled vacations aboard cruise-liners and sea travel is down to 58 percent of its normal activity.
If you are planning a vacation and you feel safer traveling in your own car, there is good news there as well. Gas prices have dropped a little each week over the past couple of months. The average price around the area now is $1.22 per gallon, but some places in New Jersey have gas prices down to just $1.04 per gallon. This drop in fuel prices is due largely in part to the drop in the demand for fuel because of decreased leisure activities and travel.
Since the attacks on Sept. 11, the travel industry has been affected greatly, but even with increased security at the airports and other places, everyone should still be aware of their surroundings and keep an eye out for anything suspicious at all times. According to Leary, “The industry hopes to assure everyone that it is safe to travel, but proper safety precautions should be taken at all times, not just in this time of anxiety.”