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Travel lags on attacks' anniversary

©Associated Press
September 12, 2002

Airports and train stations around the country were much less busy than usual Wednesday, with many Americans jittery about flying on the anniversary of the terrorist attacks.

Tampa International Airport was virtually empty, eerily similar to Sept. 11 last year.

Elsewhere, 19-year-old Elizabeth Springs, a Navy seaman stationed in Monterey, Calif., flew Northwest Airlines to attend a memorial service at the Pentagon, but wore civilian clothes to avoid becoming a possible target.

Karen Briggs, who flew American Airlines from Boston to Long Beach, Calif., on business, said flying on Sept. 11 "brings it all back, the vulnerability that we felt that day, that it could happen to anyone, anytime."

Travelers were given more reason to be nervous Wednesday after the federal government issued a terror alert and ordered security workers at airports, train stations and along waterways to be extra vigilant.

The Transportation Department said that there was no specific threat within the United States.

Air travelers said there were many empty seats, reminiscent of what it was like in the weeks immediately after the attacks.

"I think there was something like 20, 25 people," said 60-year-old Kati Cathro, who flew an American jet from Toronto to New York, en route to a vacation in Finland.

A spokeswoman at Atlanta's Hartsfield International, one of the country's busiest airports, estimated that passenger traffic was down by more than half. Hartsfield usually serves about 230,000 travelers a day.

Amtrak officials in Philadelphia said that business was slow and that several trains running between New York and Washington had been delayed or canceled.

Some car rental agencies reported higher demand for their vehicles this week as customers chose to drive rather than fly. A spokesman for Enterprise Rent-A-Car said reservations were up "double digits" compared with the same week a year ago.

Airline flight schedules were down about 25 percent Wednesday compared with the same day last year, according to OAG Worldwide, a company that provides flight information. Many airlines cut back on their Sept. 11 schedules because they realized many people would be too nervous to fly.

In Tampa, American Airlines had canceled six of its 21 daily flights by noon, and those that took off did so with loads of 30 or 35 passengers. US Airways canceled two, and Southwest Airlines canceled one.

Spirit Airlines of Miramar encouraged air travel this Sept. 11 by giving away 13,400 tickets as a promotion.

William Dial, 32, of Warren, Mich., took advantage of Spirit's offer and flew from Detroit to Myrtle Beach, S.C., to play golf and visit friends.

However, many who had reserved free tickets did not show up for their flights.

-Times staff writer Jean Heller contributed to this report.

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