Americans are once again taking flight; hoping beefed-up airport security will make the skies friendly again. The Federal Aviation Administration says airlines are flying 80 to 85% of their schedules prior to the terror attacks, but flights are only about 46% full. The picture is not so bleak for all air carriers.
News on Six reporter Tami Marler says airline travel has changed dramatically. Last year at this time, airlines carried about a million passengers a day - with twice the seating capacity as today. That means there are too many flights and too few passengers... and something's got to give. Passengers are slowly returning to the Tulsa International Airport to take to the skies.
Security measures may double their time at the airport, but most say that's why their confidence is returning. SkyWest passenger, Linda Wright, "I had a lot of misgivings about flying because I felt like the security wasn't really at as high a level as it should be, because before it seemed like you could just let anything fly. And now, I took my pointed nail file out, and they won't let you carry pocket knives." Another SkyWest passenger, Hugh West, "I left my pocket knife and my fingernail clippers and all that stuff at home, so I kind of already knew what to expect." "Now I feel like the security is heightened, and I know that as time goes on, it will get better." At a time when all of the major airlines are having massive cutbacks and layoffs, Sky West is starting a brand new route, filling an important niche, in an uncertain time.
Southwest Airlines is one of two major carriers that report no job cuts, and they say they're operating their normal schedule. Last week, Delta cut 13,000 positions, and reduced its flight schedule by 15%. They're filling in service with partners like SkyWest, keeping their passengers happy through this time of transition. Darren McCLish with SkyWest Airlines, "We work in conjunction with our major partners, in this case Delta Airlines, as a Delta connection. And together we decide where we're going to go. So if Delta wants us to be in a market and we can accommodate that, we go into that market."
Linda Wright, "I feel good about it. I'm happy about it. I've always flown Delta, and I really like Delta. So I'm basically a committed Delta flyer." A committed flyer with a renewed confidence in America's ability to take off in the face of adversity. The SkyWest maiden voyage to Salt Lake City took off at 12:30 Monday - with a full load, 50 passengers and three crewmembers.
At Tulsa International, Southwest and Great Plains airlines are back to 100% operations; while the rest of the majors are flying about 80% of their routes. Thatâ€™s according to the Tulsa Airport Authority.