Tighter security could slow biz travel

A passenger undergoes a security scan at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam on Dec. 28, 2009.

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Bob Moon: You could almost hear the collective groans from holiday air travelers who found themselves confined to their seats with nothing in their laps for the last hour of their flights in the past few days, as a result of that failed attempt to bomb a Northwest Airlines flight bound for Detroit Christmas Day.

President Obama was supposed to be vacationing in Hawaii but said today he's been staying on top of things.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I directed that we take immediate steps to ensure the safety of the traveling public. We made sure that all flights still in the air were secure and could land safely; we immediately enhanced screening and security procedures for all flights, domestic and international.

The head of Homeland Security concedes the security net failed. And now it seems we're all going to pay, in one way or another -- although airline officials were hinting today those onerous in-flight rules are being eased somewhat. Here's Marketplace's Amy Scott.


AMY SCOTT: The Transportation Security Administration says domestic travelers won't notice many changes. But people flying into the United States from other countries could face longer waits at the airport, extra security screenings and pat-downs. Pilots will have the discretion to limit the use of laptops and other electronics for portions of the flight.

Richard Gritta teaches airline finance at the University of Portland in Oregon. He says the restrictions could put off the airlines' most lucrative passengers: business travelers.

RICHARD GRITTA: Business people like hands on being there, physically being present, but if it gets to be too much of a hassle, you could see a reduction in air travel, especially on the shorter haul flights for that reason.

That could hurt the airlines, which lost more than $23 billion last year. At least one airline is already feeling the effects. Air Canada has had to cancel some flights to the U.S. because of security delays.

But Shane Downey with the National Business Travel Association downplays any long-term impact on his industry.

SHANE DOWNEY: No matter how good the technology becomes for video conferencing or whatnot, it's still not the same as sitting down and working with that person or that company across the table.

As one industry consultant put it, 30 years ago people thought the fax machine would kill business travel. But if flying commercial becomes much more of a headache, he says more people may turn to train travel for short trips, or to private business jets.

In New York, I'm Amy Scott for Marketplace.

About the author

Amy Scott is Marketplace’s education correspondent covering the K-12 and higher education beats, as well as general business and economic stories.

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