- The Washington Times - Monday, October 8, 2001

International air travel will never be the same.
New security measures under consideration by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), a worldwide aviation industry group, include biometric technologies that digitally analyze fingerprints, scan the iris of a person's eye, and recognize a human face.
Such technologies did not suddenly appear after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States, when four hijacked jetliners were turned into missiles for attacks on key buildings. Experts say the Immigration and Naturalization Service has been using hand geometry, which identifies people by their hand shape, for about 10 years at about 10 major international airports in the United States.
In Britain, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, BAA (formerly known as the British Airports Authority), owner of many airports, and the Immigration and Nationality Directorate of Britain's Home Office will introduce iris-recognition systems on Dec. 4 to facilitate the entry of frequent fliers to the country, said Thomas Windmuller, IATA program director for simplifying passenger travel.
Australia will use face-recognition technology in passports issued for airline crew members next year, and will eventually expand it to include all passports, Mr. Windmuller told The Washington Times last week.
Apart from the aviation industry, the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics used the iris scan for the first time for positive identification to match guns with the competing marksmen. The Super Bowl has also used face-recognition technology to catch criminals.
Mr. Windmuller is leading the IATA's future airport safety initiative.

Security plus convenience
"We're trying to introduce technologies to the passenger process that will increase security but also will make a passenger's journey faster, smoother and easier," he said.
Other technologies examined by the IATA include physical biometrics, such as DNA, speech recognition, signature dynamics, body odor, retina scan and hand geometry, and behavioral biometrics, such as a person's way of walking.
"Each of them is so accurate that the chance of a false positive or false negative is fairly small," he said.
For example, Mr. Windmuller said, the chance of two persons having identical irises is one in 10 to the power of 78.
In the future, airports will likely adopt a combination of several technologies, or a layered-technology approach, he said. One biometric technology might be used for employee access; a second technology would be used at passenger checkpoints, and a third would be used in hidden cameras keeping an eye on the crowds.
"I believe that in the next five or 10 years, this will become a normal way of flying," Mr. Windmuller said. "I think passengers will be so familiar with it that they will be surprised that they don't have it. It will be like an X-ray machine today."
Although airlines have resumed operating at 80 percent normal, millions of Americans are calling off their flights overseas amid widespread fear of flying and U.S. Embassy warnings against all travel to certain parts of the world, including a central Java province in Indonesia.
In London, hundreds of cancellations swamped the travel and hotel agencies. A tourism-promotion agency there called the situation the worst since the 1991 Persian Gulf war, when it recorded a 22 percent decline in North American visitors to the country.
In Thailand, the number of overseas travelers has decreased significantly, halving the hotel occupancy rate. That country's tourism authority warned that the number of tourists could drop by as much as 30 percent from last year in the last quarter of 2001.

Leisure trips canceled
Malaysia, which relies on tourism as its No. 2 foreign-exchange earner, is also feeling the effects of the terrorist attacks. Its hotels are receiving cancellations in droves from business people, private travelers and group tours from India, Australia, Japan and Germany.
The Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington have all but eliminated leisure and nonessential business air travel worldwide, and half the seats are filled on most airline flights, despite this being the usually busy end-of-summer season.
Travel agents around the world have seen dramatically slower airline bookings to the United States. Hundreds of conventions and meetings have been canceled, and hotel-occupancy rates also plummeted throughout the Caribbean, Asia and Europe. Some hotels have even begun to furlough workers.
International airlines have seen a sharp drop in advance bookings, costing billions of dollars in lost revenue a year. Added insurance costs and security measures that also cost billions of dollars are leading airlines to lay off more than 100,000 workers in the United States alone.
Cash-strapped Swissair, Switzerland's 70-year-old flag carrier, shut down operations on Wednesday, but resumed flights the next day with Swiss government credit. The airline operates at about 50 percent of normal.
Other big national carriers like Sabena of Belgium, Ireland's Aer Lingus, and Iberia of Spain all have reported financial difficulties or delayed taking delivery of new aircraft, while Alitalia, Italy's national carrier, disclosed its request for a recapitalization plan.
Increased insurance costs and heightened security measures imposed on all flights that leave for the United States have added to the costs of air travel, prompting some airlines to add surcharges.

Surcharges imposed
Singapore Airlines added a war surcharge of $1.25 to all its flights, and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines has begun charging an extra $5 to all tickets it sells worldwide. KLM will also increase fares for travel from the Netherlands to the United States and the Middle East by 5 percent, starting Oct. 16.
Other travel-related businesses, including hotels, car-rental and taxi companies, have seen sharp drops in business since the attacks on the United States. A Canadian travel company, Transat A.T., announced it would lay off about 1,300 employees, or 28 percent of its work force in Canada.
The attacks on the Pentagon and New York nearly four weeks ago also slashed the number of international visitors and students coming to the United States, which totaled about 51 million last year. The decrease in international travelers is endangering the jobs of 1.1 million American workers who depend on them and $11 billion tax revenue they generate.
Some foreign airline companies that asked their governments for financial assistance are also expected to announce layoffs or may be forced into bankruptcy. One of the biggest carriers in Asia, Japan Airlines Co. Ltd., said one week after the attacks that 12 percent of its international passengers had canceled flights after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.
But as rival airlines worldwide slashed jobs and cut back on flights, JAL said it had no immediate restructuring plans.
The United States closed its airspace for four days after the deadly hijackings, which resulted in 45,000 JAL passenger cancellations and cost the airline $20.8 million in revenue.
Meanwhile, a small but growing number of people have regained confidence in the safety of air travel amid the heightened safety checks. They are experiencing more comfort in the nearly empty aircraft.
Kai-Jurgen Lietz and his wife, Amanda, from Frankfurt, Germany, who came to the Washington area for a three-week vacation, flew back to Frankfurt in late September. Of their domestic U.S. flights after the attacks, Mr. Lietz said: "I felt like we were flying first class."

Lots more room
Motoko Takagi of Sendai, Japan, arrived at Washington Dulles International Airport aboard a nearly empty All Nippon Airways flight recently. There were only six passengers aboard.
"I didn't get tired because the plane was empty," she said.
Many people who have recently used Dulles said they were not afraid of flying because of the added security checks.
"I wasn't afraid of flying at all," Miss Takagi said. "After the attacks, the security checks became more stringent, so now is the safest time to fly."
T.T. Tran from Virginia's Shenandoah Valley said the effects of reduced passengers on airplanes will not last long.
"It will be a short term," Mr. Tran said. "It will be three or four months before it will back up and everybody feels secure."
No one knows when people will start flying again, but it could take years until coordinated security checks are put in place worldwide.
"We're open for business and hoping people will have confidence in flying with us again," said Mark Slitt, American Airlines spokesman.
The U.S. Embassy in New Delhi also reported about 60 percent drop in visa applications for the United States in mid-September, after the terrorist attacks.

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