Thirteen years ago Thursday, the world was rocked by the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C. While none of us will ever forget that day, for one industry the anniversary casts a shadow on the bottom line: the airlines.
“In the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, air travel dropped dramatically, and that’s not surprising,” says David Clark, a professor of economics at Marquette University who studied the economic impact of the attacks on U.S. airlines. According to his model, domestic air travel in September 2001 was down by more than half.
As the months passed, fear of another attack faded and people began to return to the air. “But as you got closer to the one-year anniversary there was a rather substantial decline,” says Clark. According to his model, 24.4 percent fewer people were flying than expected.
This kind of anniversary effect appears to have dissipated. Airlines for America, the trade association of the largest U.S. airlines, says it doesn’t see any particular 9/11-related changes in flights this year.
“I figure it’s probably the safest day to fly now,” says Bianca Cribbs, who is flying from Toronto to New York on September 11. The main reason she thought about the date was a line on her receipt: “The September 11th U.S. Security Tax which is $5.44.”
That’s the tax that helps pay for the biggest post-9/11 change to air travel: the Transportation Security Administration, which screens and scans the millions of passengers and bags that fly each day.
Spokesman Ross Feinstein says that from the TSA’s perspective, “The 13th anniversary is no different than any other day.”