Will Air Travel Plunge Following Terror Plot?

The airline industry has just had its most profitable quarter since 1978, according to some analysts. The improvement was based on a return of passengers who had stopped flying because of the recession, the streamlining of costs through mergers (like Northwest Air and Delta/DAL), and relatively low jet fuel costs.

But there is evidence from the past that when airline travel appears to turn dangerous, at least in the eyes of fliers, passenger volume dips. The most extreme example of this was the precipitous drop in air travel after Sept. 11. The events of that day, obviously, can't be compared to the bombs found on two planes recently. However, officials in the Middle East and America are not certain whether the bombs, which may have been built in Yemen, were isolated incidents or part of a larger plan. The U.S. government now believes that they may have been intended to explode in midair.

Deputy national security adviser John Brennan said on CNN's State of the Union, that "it would be very imprudent . . . to presume that there are no others (packages) out there." It is believed at this point that the bombs were the work of al Qaeda.

There is certainly a history of terrorist groups that have targeted passenger airlines. Last Christmas a man tried to set off a bomb as a flight landed in Detroit. In 1988 a bomb on board a Pan Am flight exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 259 people on board and 11 on the ground. Most adult air travelers remember that incident.

Will fear of more bombs keep potential fliers away? Airport security is bound to increase a great deal, adding considerably to the time people have to spend to get on flights. It is never comforting to hear your own government say that the attacks may not be over.




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