- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 3, 2001

Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport will reopen tomorrow, but it won't be business as usual.
Security regulations will be the strictest in the nation, and it will take at least 45 days before the airport returns to slightly more than half its former level of operation.
Nevertheless, the worst is over for the only major U.S. airport still closed after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. Some of the damage is expected to linger after Reagan Airport's reopening.
"Having the airport reopening is a huge boost to the local economy," said Robert Grow, transportation director for the Greater Washington Board of Trade. "The local economy was really suffering because of that."
The airport pumps about $2.4 billion into Washington's economy every year, and more than 10,000 people work at the airport. Another 6,000 businesses rely on the airport, including shops, restaurants and car-rental companies.
But even with flights resumed, it will take time to repair the damage from the 23-day closure. The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which runs the airport, estimates it lost $400,000 a day during the closure.
"It's not going to be a few days, it's going to be a matter of months before we're back up to speed," Mr. Grow said.
After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, thousands of airline, hotel and restaurant employees were laid off. Some occupancy rates at Washington-area hotels dropped below 17 percent.
The airport has been a ghost town, with its monitors that announce arrivals and departures turned off, and a gate blocks people from heading into any of the terminals' gates. Airport workers have been able to file for unemployment benefits under a sign handwritten in bright orange ink in Terminal A.
The airport's biggest tenant is US Airways, based in Arlington. The terrorist attacks nearly drove the airline into bankruptcy as its customers like others worldwide decided to avoid flying.
"President Bush and his team have made a wise decision that both reopens Ronald Reagan National Airport and provides the level of security necessary for our nation's capital," said US Airways Chairman Stephen Wolf. "Not only is this a strong signal to our nation and the world, but it also is a very significant and important step for the Washington, D.C., area and for US Airways." But the airport will not operate at full capacity for at least another six weeks.
Only 190 flights a day are authorized to operate out of the airport for the first three weeks, compared with the usual 900. At first, only commuter shuttles to and from New York and Boston will be allowed. The number of flights departing tomorrow will depend on airline bookings today, said Tara Hamilton, spokeswoman for the airports authority, which also runs Washington Dulles International Airport.
After about three weeks, up to 450 flights a day will be allowed, through mid-November. The Transportation Department plans a later review to determine whether more flights should be allowed after 45 days, Miss Hamilton said.
Tough new security restrictions will lengthen the wait to board airplanes, raise costs for airlines and make guards and their dogs common sights at the airport.
Airlines recommend passengers arrive two hours before their scheduled departure times.
Although the more careful baggage checks and body scans are not lengthening lines, they will slow boardings, Miss Hamilton said.
Considering the national emergency caused by the suicide hijackings that destroyed New York's World Trade Center, damaged the Pentagon and slammed an airliner into the Pennsylvania countryside, airport officials say there are few alternatives to the increased security.
"We've said from the beginning our main goal is to reopen Reagan National Airport," Miss Hamilton said.
The authority established procedures to save as much energy as possible, said Peter Alteri Jr., an electrician for the authority.
"We're getting ready to gear up. There's lots of work to be done. Things were left the way they had been when they shut down the airport."
"I tell you, it's the best news we've had since the 11th," said Steven Smith, general manager of the Crystal City Courtyard by Marriott, which is less than a mile from the airport. "We're not overly optimistic that we'll be 100 percent [occupancy] coming out of the gates, but it's a start."
"We're totally excited. We couldn't ask for anything better. It means that things will soon return to normal," said David Horowitz, general manager of the Hyatt Regency Crystal City.
The Greater Washington Initiative, a group that promotes the region to businesses and argued for the airport's prompt reopening, acknowledged the reopening alone will not bring back passengers. Fear of flying continues to keep passenger loads to little more than half their numbers before Sept. 11.
"Not everybody would begin flying immediately," said Tom Morr, the Greater Washington Initiative's managing partner.
Nevertheless, the public image alone is enough to justify resuming flights, he said. "The important thing is to let the country and the world know Washington is open for business," Mr. Morr said.

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