Nearly two weeks have passed since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, and Americans are beginning to return to their normal routines and lives. However, the transportation industry, and most notably the aviation community, will continue to feel the aftershocks of the attacks on New York and Washington, D.C .
In these last weeks, airlines took a major hit as their stocks dropped dramatically and ticket sales plummeted.
Rod McLean, airport deputy director for Dane County Airport, said business took a disastrous turn following Sept. 11.
“A week ago we were at our lowest levels in 10 years,” McLean said. “On the average, our load factor is 68-75 percent. Load factors dropped below 20 percent following the hijackings. They are now back up to 45 percent.”
There is no way to predict accurately what consumers’ long-term reactions will be following this event, quite simply because nothing in American history can rival this current situation.
UW business professor Richard Green said there is no prior historical precedent that could help forecast what will occur in the ensuing months.
“What the magnitude [of this event] is, no one really knows,” he said.
Green also said ticket prices could be driven upward as a result of new security measures.
“This can be pretty devastating to the airlines,” Green said. “The entire cost structure of the business may change.”
Bus companies have also been affected, as many travelers have turned to them in the wake of the attacks.
Scott Kreisler, manager of the Badger-Greyhound bus station in Madison, said business rose dramatically following the attacks.
“In this area we tripled our sales the day after Sept. 11, and overall [nationally] Greyhound is up 192 percent from normal standards,” Kreisler said.
However, Kreisler also said he is seeing a return to usual business as consumers are choosing to delay longer trips.
“It has returned to normal in Madison,” he said. “It seems like the majority of people have put off their vacation plans for now. Greyhound nationally should continue to be up slightly.”
As far as future consumer behavior, the answer is still up in the air. McLean said that though air travel will never return to normal after the hijackings, the world events of the next few months are critical to the industry.
“People need aviation,” McLean said. “I never see us back to normal, but I do see us increasing [as time progresses].”
UW sophomore Jeff Mueller is a frequent air traveler, and he admits that in the near future he may look to other options for transportation.
“If I have to go a distance, and there is another mode of transportation that is feasible, I’ll take it,” Mueller said, “I had lost confidence in the airline industry long before [Sept. 11]. I’m not afraid to fly now. I just can’t afford to take the time that may come with the increased security measure that will inevitably be in place.”