With the economy weak and the possibility of a war looming, airlines continue to show losses a year after the worst terrorist attacks to take place on American soil devastated the industry. Locally, travel agencies say business is slowly recovering, although travelers are still somewhat cautious.
“Different segments of the travel industry are still suffering the repercussions of Sept. 11,” said Connie Pierce, owner of Travel Centre on Packard Avenue. “Business travel has declined, but leisure travel has returned. People aren’t afraid to get on a plane, but they’re staying closer to home.”
At Travel Centre, popular destinations include the Caribbean, Hawaii and Alaska. Pierce said she has not sold any tickets to Israel or the Middle East and has seen hesitation in people traveling to Greece and Turkey.
Although she said she expects pre-Sept. 11 travel levels to return, at the moment, it’s “more of an economic issue than a feeling of not being safe.”
Ryan Tell, manager of STA Travel on South University Avenue, said business is definitely returning.
“We are back 95 to 98 percent,” he said, but noted that STA is well known for its discounted fares and collegiate customer base.
“The college student is a little more resilient than the market – a little more brave and courageous and more likely to look for deals,” he said. Tell added that while he expected airlines would continue to raise prices for tickets, “our fares are different than published fares – they have not changed and will stay the same.”
Pierce also predicted the price of plane tickets would rise.
“I think you will continue to see fares rise because of the economics within the airline industry. They need to maximize revenue and we see that in their new penalty structure,” she said. “I’m not seeing great fares, and with security fees and fuel surcharges, overall ticket price is not going down.”
In recent weeks, airlines have taken new measures to raise their profitability. Northwest Airlines recently announced it would reduce the number of flight attendants by 1,600 to cut costs and meet slower demand. Also this month, the Transportation Department allowed United Airlines and U.S. Airways to sell seats on each others’ flights. It is rumored that a similar agreement between Northwest, Delta and Continental may follow.
Students on campus have shown discontent with the airlines’ new business strategies.
LSA junior Amy Isaacson, who is flying to Pennsylvania for Fall Break, said she was annoyed with higher fares and fewer perks for travelers.
“I’m upset that the cost of flying has risen significantly,” she said. “I travel a lot and at $250 a ticket, I am not going to able to afford to travel soon. I kept hearing rumors that after (Sept. 11), prices would drop, but I’ve yet to see it. It’s absolutely ridiculous what they are charging to fly now.”
Pierce acknowledged, “Flights are fuller and more in demand.” But as for the general outlook for the industry, she said, “People are going to continue to travel and whether they’re traveling for business or pleasure, there’s always going to be an industry.”