How 9/11 changed business travel

Security personnel checks a business traveler's luggage on September 18, 2001 at Dulles International Airport in suburban Washington, D.C.

ADRIENE HILL: With the 10th anniversary of 9/11 this Sunday, we'll spend this week taking stock of the economic consequences of the terror attacks.

Today: business travel. Conventional wisdom holds that 9/11 did major damage to the market, but the attacks actually forced some changes that made travel cheaper for business fliers.

Marketplace's Nancy Marshall Genzer reports.


NANCY MARSHALL GENZER: Of all the places to be on the morning of September 11, 2001, Salomon Sredni was on a plane. He was flying from Florida to Chicago on business for the online trading firm TradeStation, where he's now CEO. Sredni overheard the guy across the aisle talking on one of those seat-back phones. He asked him what was going on.

SALOMON SREDNI: And he told me that the White House was on fire, the Pentagon was on fire and the Twin Towers in New York were on fire, and I said come on that can't be for real.

Ten years later, Sredni still flies A lot. But his employees do not. TradeStation used to brings its workers to its Florida headquarters four times a year. Now company-wide meetings are done by video conference -- weekly ones, too. Sredni gives me a quick demonstration with an assistant.

VIDEO CONFERENCE: Did you get that package I sent you, on FedEx?

TradeStation saves more than a million dollars a year on travel by videoconferencing. Shredni says the company would be doing business this way even if 9/11 hadn't happened. But he says the attacks sped up the process.

9/11 also brought about another big change for businesses: It made business travel cheaper. The disaster happened just as online travel bookings were taking off. Sites like Expedia created more price competition among airlines, and 9/11 scared people away from flying.

Christopher Elliott is a travel blogger. He says 9/11 gave finally gave business travelers, who were used to paying top dollar, buying power.

CHRISTOPHER ELLIOTT: Demand dropped off a cliff. And the few business travelers that remained were in a unique position where they could negotiate.

Sredni says there's something 9/11 didn't change: the need for face time. His company was recently acquired by a Japanese firm. He's headed to Asia, by air, to do a little grip and grin with his new partners.

In Washington, I'm Nancy Marshall Genzer for Marketplace.

About the author

Nancy Marshall-Genzer is a senior reporter for Marketplace based in Washington, D.C. covering daily news.

Comments

I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
With Generous Support From...