New From The Post
Federal Aviation Administration Closes Nation's Airports
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 11, 2001; 3:29 p.m.
The Federal Aviation Administration today closed all the nations airports, for the first time in history, and ordered all U.S.-based airlines to cancel domestic and international flights until at least noon tomorrow.
After two planes crashed into New York's World Trade Center, the federal government said that no takeoffs would be allowed and that airlines with flights in the air were to land their planes at the nearest available airport.
The one exception this morning was Pittsburgh International Airport, which the FAA said was a security threat, according to US Airways spokesman David Castelveter. Castelveter said the air tower at Pittsburgh International was evacuated.
European flights were being diverted to Canadian airports. Air Canada canceled all of its flights. Amtrak also suspended all of its service along the Northeast corridor.
US Airways spokesman David Castelveter said the airline was trying to determine how many flights were affected. Meanwhile, the airlines said they are trying to accommodate the travelers as events continue to change.
"We are working with these customers to make other arrangements either tomorrow or whenever we are operating again," Castelveter said. "Our advice to customers is to be patient."
United Airlines spokeswoman Ruth Venning said she couldn't confirm press reports that a United flight was one of the planes involved in the terrorist crashes. Venning said the airline's "thoughts are with everyone who may have been involved in the situation." She encouraged travelers to contact the airline at 1-800-932-8555 to obtain information.
American Airlines confirmed that it lost two aircraft. One was Flight 11, a Boeing 767 traveling from Boston to Los Angeles with 81 passengers, nine flight attendants and two pilots. The second was Flight 77, a Boeing 757 flying from Washington Dulles to Los Angeles with 58 passengers, four flight attendants and two pilots.
"We are horrified by these tragic events," said Donald J. Carty, chairman and CEO of American Airlines. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of all involved."
American customers who wish to receive information about relatives should call American's response number at 1-800-245-0999.
Aviation expert Mike Boyd, chief executive of The Boyd Group, said there would be serious consequences to the closing of the entire air traffic system, beyond stranding travelers.
"Air transportation is one of the major forms of communication. If it's shut down, goods, mail, people aren't moving. As a result of that, you're talking about a major hit to the economy," Boyd said.
Boyd added that the crashes could frighten travelers away from flying for at least a week. That's more bad news for the airline industry, which is currently experiencing its worst financial downturn in about 10 years as a result of a major drop in business travel and higher fuel and labor costs. The industry is already expected to report a loss as much as $2.5 billion this year.
Boyd said one day of suspended flights could cost the industry "tens of billions in dollars."
"There's going to be a ripple effect, even if flying returns Wednesday, nobody is going to be on an airplane tomorrow," Boyd said.
Travel agent Terry Trippler of OneTravel.com, said the FAA's move is called a "Force Majeure Event" which translates into any government regulated event affecting airlines. Trippler said as a result, travelers are entitled to either a full refund, even non-refundable tickets, or travelers could accept alternative arrangements made by the airlines.
"When this ends, when it ever does, you will have all of today's and tomorrow's people trying to get somewhere," said Trippler. "When they all open we will have a big mess," Trippler said.