Uneasy public casts wary eye on air travel

By Kate Reardon

Herald Writer

Dolores Holt of Marysville flew out Thursday to visit her son and his family in Phoenix for Thanksgiving, even though she was feeling a bit anxious after last week’s airliner crash in New York.

"I had very mixed emotions for a while before I made my reservations," Holt said. "I think everyone has mixed emotions about traveling after September 11."

There’s no doubt people look at travel differently now. Even during one of the busiest times of the year for travel, some have chosen to cancel their plans. Others are edgy but traveling anyway. Few have little or no concerns.

People are even waiting to book flights until the last minute, travel professionals said, because they’re too nervous to plan ahead. Others are having sudden last-minute desires to get out of town. And many travelers are enjoying deep discounts or free upgrades in accommodations.

Even so, attitudes about travel are not getting any more optimistic. Only 58 percent of Americans have plans to take a leisure trip during the next six months, according to a poll by Travel Industry Association of America.

There’s so much to think about — security changes, getting to the airport three hours before flights, packing more carefully for the trip.

Holt, who normally carries a fingernail file in her handbag, remembered to pack it in her checked luggage instead. She even had concerns that security might have questions about an item in her suitcase: a crystal clock wrapped for her son for Christmas.

Some travelers who would never think twice about flying in airplanes for long trips are seriously looking at their options.

Holt said she had even thought about driving to Arizona, but she knew it would be a bad idea to drive that far by herself. She even thought about taking the train, but then realized the extra travel time would cause her to lose a few days of visiting time.

For Ron Palmer and his wife, there’s been no talk of changing plans for a trip to Las Vegas, which they scheduled two days before the crash in New York of Flight 587, which killed 265.

"We have no thoughts of changing our plans and intend to go and have a great time," Palmer, of Bothell, said of the trip planned for late December.

Jo Ann Sunderlage of Lynnwood will be leaving the day after Thanksgiving with three friends for a trip to Mexico.

"The airline has already changed our flight three times," she said, adding she’ll be at the airport at 2:30 a.m. "We were really kind of hesitant because of security issues. But we can’t live our lives in a cocoon."

Even though some people are traveling, they may not feel completely comfortable in these uncertain times.

Glenda Terry of Monroe said that against her better judgment she still plans to fly to North Carolina to visit family for Thanksgiving.

"I was not comfortable flying before 9-11, and my fears certainly have not (diminished) since then," she said. "If I hadn’t booked my nonrefundable flight before 9-11 I probably would not go home this year."

Ramona and Robert Fletcher still plan to visit Puerto Escondido, Mexico, to rest and renew after the busy year.

"I admit that I am less comfortable flying recently, but I don’t intend to change any plans we have," Ramona Fletcher said. "This year we have been to Europe, and I spent three weeks in Israel, too, visiting a daughter and her husband, who is an engineer on contract in Tel Aviv."

Others are turning to spirituality for comfort.

For Holt, she’ll try to remain calm in belief that her late husband is watching over her during her travels.

"I know my husband’s with me."

You can call Herald Writer Kate Reardon at 425-339-3455 or send e-mail to reardon@heraldnet.com.

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