Nations Air Travelers Weight Options

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Chicago, Ill. Nov. 13, 2001 (AP by Martha Irvine)--Some were nervous, many weary. A few canceled plans to fly and rented cars to get home.

Yet amid news of another plane crash in New York _ and scarcely two months after terrorists struck _ many travelers did what they said they had to do: They stepped onto airplanes and took their seats.

``If it's your time to go, it's your time to go,'' said Christianna Toler, an actress from New York who was working her way through security at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport.

The shock of Monday's crash threatened to undermine efforts to woo travelers back into the skies for the holiday season. For some, it even opened fresh wounds.

``Once we get some closure _ this happens,'' said Joe Santulli, whose sister-in-law died in the World Trade Center attacks. Still, he said he had every intention of taking a plane home from a business trip in Los Angeles.

``You stop flying, you stop living your life,'' he said while waiting for his American Airlines flight at Los Angeles International Airport. ``And that's not going to happen.''

Not everyone was persuaded to keep flying. Marie Brown, of Oceanport, N.J., was returning from a vacation to Hawaii with her husband when their Newark-bound flight was diverted to Detroit.

``I'm too scared to fly,'' Brown said. ``We're trying to get a car to drive home. This is just unreal.''

The crash has come at a critical time. Since Sept. 11, the airline industry has lost billions of dollars and laid off more than 200,000 workers, while passenger travel dropped by more than 30 percent.

Marianne McInerney, executive director of the National Business Travel Association, said passengers had been steadily returning to the skies. But she worried that the latest crash might derail the comeback, particularly just before the usually busy holiday travel season.

``As quickly as possible, the National Transportation Safety Board has to advise us what the cause of this accident is,'' she said. ``We cannot afford to take our time. The American public is already demanding answers.''

Michelle Janis, a spokeswoman for the Washington-based American Bus Association, predicted more travelers would consider bus trips as an alternative to flying. Ridership for bus trips over 1,000 miles already has increased by 10 percent since Sept. 11, the association said.

Still, airline officials may take heart in the attitudes of people like Michael Thompson, a British tourist visiting San Francisco. He said he will board a flight to Las Vegas later this week.

``It doesn't worry me one bit,'' he said. ``These things happen, don't they? You could die in a car accident.''

Copyright © 2000 The Associated Press