Airlines to increase flights amid surge in bookings

Tuesday, March 19, 2002

LONDON -- Increasingly confident about flying as the shock of Sept. 11 recedes, travelers are returning to the skies over the North Atlantic.

American Airlines and British Airways, which cut services as demand slumped after the attacks, said Monday that business is growing so well that they are increasing the number of flights on their trans-Atlantic routes.

Traffic on North Atlantic routes was down 7.7 percent in February compared to a year earlier, but that was a strong improvement on October's year-to-year decline of 31.3 percent.

"There was a brief period after Sept. 11 when I didn't want to fly to the States, but that quickly went away and now I have no problems at all with it," said Cambridge businessman Chay Morgan as he waited at London's Heathrow Airport on Monday for a flight to Detroit.

The rebound comes none too soon for British Airways, which reported a 20 percent drop in traffic volume in the fourth quarter of last year. On Feb. 13, the airline announced it was cutting 5,800 jobs, raising its total reductions since August to 23 percent of its work force.

Some passengers said they were unconvinced that the public had shaken off its fear of flying.

David Logue, 27, an information technology specialist from London who was catching a flight to Boston, said many business people "are trying to avoid traveling. There's a lot more use of video and audio conferencing. It's too early to say that confidence is back."

British Airways said its February traffic volume -- measured in the distance flown by paying customers -- was down 2.5 percent from a year earlier, compared with January, when the figure was down by nearly 7 percent.

Traffic figures for American routes were 3.5 percent lower in February, and 8 percent lower a month earlier, the airline said.

In the month after Sept. 11, the number of Britons visiting New York dipped by 59 percent compared with the previous month.

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