Only certainty of 9-11 travel is uncertainty

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Air travel in Colorado Springs as the one-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., is picking up, but some say it is still below pre-attack levels.

Additionally, Colorado tourism declined at least 10 percent this year, greatly impacted by wildfires and drought, but in part because of the carryover of 9-11, and fear another attack could occur on the anniversary.

Local airport travel fell as well, but many believe the soft economy is responsible for as much of the decline as the fear of flying on the anniversary. July 2002 versus July 2001 emplanements at Colorado Springs Airport is down almost five percent.

Several Colorado Springs travel agencies say bookings are down for Sept. 11 compared to last year, most likely because of the approaching anniversary.

“People are traveling less because airlines are cutting back on flights,” said Ana Golden, owner of Taylor Travel in Colorado Springs.

Earl Fox, a travel specialist at Taylor Travel, said while some clients are concerned about security, more are concerned about price.

“People do want to travel,” Fox said. “There are questions about security… and people are a little concerned about that date.”

But generally, said Fox, those that want to, or have to, will travel.

Colorado Springs resident Jack Higgins said he planned to visit relatives in Scotland next month, but decided to reschedule his visit.

“At first, we thought we’d go ahead and take the trip as planned, but my wife and I started getting nervous,” Higgins said. “The more we discussed it; it just seemed like the prudent thing to do.”

Higgins, and his wife Anita, said they feared terrorists would use the anniversary of last year’s attacks to launch another strike against the United States or U.S. citizens.

That’s a perfectly normal reaction for some people, said psychologist Stuart Fischoff, in an interview with travel industry magazine TravelAgeWest. “There are people for whom the anniversary of anything negative (will engender) panic and anxiety, and they will do nothing in any way that will connect them with that.”

Ironically, said Fischoff, the safest place to be on Sept. 11 may be on an airplane.

Delta and Continental said advance bookings indicate a reluctance to travel around the anniversary. American Airlines planned early on to operate fewer flights on Sept. 11.

Media frenzy is another reason given for a reduction in airline travel in September. Networks are planning extensive coverage of the anniversary, and some people don’t want to be caught up in the brouhaha.

Spirit Airlines, a small Florida-based regional airline serving Denver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Oakland, offered free flights for Sept. 11. The company said more than one million callers jammed the company’s phone lines, trying get in on the deal. The 13,400 seats were booked in a few hours.

“I don’t think this is any surprise,” said Vivian Deuschl, national spokesman for Ritz-Carlton, a Marriott subsidiary. “People are afraid.” She said bookings are down at all Ritz-Carlton hotels.

Most Americans were not scared out of the skies by Sept. 11, and the ones who were have gotten over it, a new public survey finds.

A telephone poll commissioned by Travelocity.com finds 25 percent avoided travel immediately after last year’s attacks but 90 percent have traveled since.

The random survey of 1,000 people conducted by the Telenation division of Market Facts found that fewer than 3 percent still avoid travel out of concern for personal safety while nearly 79 percent think travel is safer now.