Southwest and US Airways not reducing flights Sept. 11

Passenger worry causes some lines to make cuts

August 03, 2002|By Paul Adams | Paul Adams,SUN STAFF

The two busiest airlines at Baltimore-Washington International Airport say they don't plan to reduce flights on Sept. 11 despite passenger fears about flying on the one-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.

Several domestic and international airlines have said they will reduce flights that day in response to a drop-off in advance bookings, forcing some passengers to rebook on other airlines.

But Dallas-based Southwest Airlines, BWI's biggest carrier, and Arlington, Va.-based US Airways, BWI's No. 2 carrier, said yesterday that they have no plans to ground planes Sept. 11. Combined, the two handle more than half of the passengers at BWI.

"We print millions of flight schedules that our customers depend on, and we want to live up to that commitment," said Brandy King, a spokeswoman for Southwest.

Southwest is the only major airline in the United States that didn't announce major cutbacks and layoffs in response to a slowdown in air travel after the terrorist attacks.

US Airways, which eliminated more than half its flights at BWI last year and is flirting with bankruptcy, said it has noticed a decline in bookings for Sept. 11, but plans no changes to its schedule. A spokesman indicated that could change if bookings continue to lag.

Several other major carriers that serve BWI said they plan some cutbacks, but none could say whether flights to and from Baltimore would be affected.

American Airlines, the nation's largest carrier, said it anticipated a decline in demand and will cut flights accordingly.

"American Airlines has adjusted our schedule to reflect the demand for travel on and around Sept. 11," said Todd Burke, a spokesman for the airline. "American will have plenty of capacity to accommodate our customers who choose to fly on Sept. 11."

UAL Corp.'s United Airlines said it will cut back slightly in markets where it flies frequently, but all of its international flights will continue as regularly scheduled.

`Bookings are light'

"Wednesday in September is not a heavy travel day anyway," said Joe Hopkins, a spokesman for United. "Nonetheless, the advance bookings are light that day."

Delta Air Lines said it will reduce Sept. 11 flights where demand is weak, but no specific routes have been identified yet. Northwest Airlines said it is considering a "limited number of scheduling adjustments." International carriers British Airways and Air France have both announced flight reductions as well.

The reductions have caused inconvenience for some passengers, said Lynda Maxwell, certified travel consultant and president of Ellicott City-based Destinations Inc.

Change in plans

One customer had to switch her Sept. 11 flight to another airline after her original flight was canceled. Airlines will typically offer a refund in such instances.

"I think it very well might be that a lot of people are just flat out not traveling on the 11th," said Maxwell, whose agency specializes in leisure travel.

It may be a different story for business travelers, who are more likely to travel in midweek and have plans that can't be altered.

"We've seen no indication and we've heard nobody really discuss it at all," said Jay Ellenby, president of Safe Harbors Travel in Baltimore. About 80 percent of his customers are business travelers.

"No companies are talking about decreasing their travel during that week or even that day," he said.

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