Getting back to normal may be most difficult for the airlines, which were so drastically impacted by the attacks that upwards of 100,000 layoffs have since occurred. But, with the exception of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, which had opened only on a restricted basis, the major airports were at 80 to 90 percent of pre-Sept. 11 operational capacity.
Along with the initial $15 billion in federal assistance to help stem the industry’s financial woes, the individual airlines have taken steps to win passengers back. In early October, Delta Air Lines implemented a round of deep discounts in an effort to get people flying again—and was followed in short order by United, American, and Northwest.
International travel has been hit hardest, with some predictions that airlines around the world face at least $7 billion in losses this year in international travel alone. As of press time, Anset Australia Airlines and SwissAir had ceased operations.
It may take such extreme and controversial security measures such as computer-assisted passenger screening technology (CAPS) to get business travel back up into the air. Or it may take the pragmatic approach suggested by STR’s Lomanno: "The fact of the matter is that people are going to have to fly places and stay in hotels in order for things to return to normal."
However, for quite a while, "normal" won’t be what it was before, said the Orlando CVB’s Peeper. "Right now, we’re still in the process of defining what the new ‘normal’ will be."