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Sunday, 23 December, 2001, 22:51 GMT
Culture change for America's airlines
A passenger waits alongside security in Boston's Logan Airport
Security has been stepped up
By the BBC's Mike Fox

As millions of Americans travel to visit friends and relatives for the holidays, this latest reminder that extremist attacks still pose a very real danger has sent a shiver through the country.

Yet the speed with which the cabin crew and the passengers subdued the man is also a reminder of how the events of 11 September have changed attitudes to these attacks.

Many people are now willing to put their own lives at risk to prevent a bigger disaster happening.

Airport security is now much tighter, with nearly every sharp object banned from carry-on luggage.

And on 11 December the Federal Aviation Administration issued a warning to airline and airport personnel to be aware of the possibility that weapons could be hidden in shoes.

Fear of flying

With airlines and airports in the middle of one of their busiest periods of the year, queues at many airports are long.

World Trade Center wreckage
Americans are still haunted by the 11 September attacks

Yet passengers are patient during the wait, recognising that the checks are vital for their safety. The problem for the industry is the millions of people who have decided not to fly.

J W Marriott Jr, the chairman and chief executive of Marriott hotels, told America's ABC News that this latest incident could cause further problems for the travel and tourism industry.

"It's not helpful and we're very concerned about it," he said.

"But American people are courageous people, they're brave and we're all in the frontlines in this war against terrorism.

"Every American who travels is a frontline soldier in the war."

Mr Marriott said the industry as a whole had laid off around half a million people and contracted by between 25% and 30% in the three months since September.

This is far worse than a normal industry recession, or the 5% drop immediately after the Gulf War in 1990.

Lack of confidence

One of those who has not flown since 11 September is Emily Best of Bethesda, Maryland.

"I'm still jittery about flying," she told BBC News Online.

"When I first heard about this I thought it was a crazy, but it also made me think I won't fly again until the federal government takes over security.

"I don't have confidence about the security personnel - they still have the same people running things that they did before."

Security 'a joke'

Rosemary Lombard of Washington DC has decided.

"Flying is still the safest way to travel and I won't lead my life in fear, and not travel because of what has happened," she says.

"If I happen to be on a plane that crashes, at least I had a good life because I travelled. But I think that airport security is a joke."

Marlene Gummo of New York shares that last sentiment.

"I don't like an 18-year-old kid with no formal education or training having control over my destiny," she says.

The federal government starts to take over security at all US airports in the next few months, and will be in charge for at least three years.

That, and additional security measures, may help reassure more passengers, but with the economy still in recession people may also avoid travelling for financial rather than safety reasons.

See also:

19 Nov 01 | Americas
American Airlines clears tailfins
16 Oct 01 | World
New York passenger jet crash
03 Oct 01 | Americas
US airlines to reinforce cockpits
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