- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 16, 2001

Continental Airlines announced yesterday it will lay off 12,000 employees because of a sharp decline in demand for air travel caused by the deadly terrorist hijackings Tuesday.
The action by Continental is the clearest evidence yet that the airline industry is hemorrhaging financially from the terrorist attacks: an effect that can only weaken the already-debilitated U.S. economy and, perhaps, push it over the edge to recession.
"The U.S. airline industry is in an unprecedented financial crisis. Our industry needs immediate congressional action if the nation's air transportation system is to survive," Continental Chairman and Chief Executive Gordon Bethune said in a statement.
Boston's Logan International Airport, where hijackers boarded two planes that destroyed the World Trade Center, reopened yesterday, amid tight security, leaving Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport as the only major airport in the country still closed to travel.
In other developments:
The passport of a suspected hijacker was found near the rubble of the World Trade Center.
The New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq completed successful tests of their computer and communications systems yesterday, clearing the way for trading to resume tomorrow.
By yesterday afternoon, 152 bodies had been recovered from the ruins of the World Trade Center, with 92 identified. The number of people missing and presumed dead climbed to 4,972, up from 4,763 on Thursday. The death toll at the Pentagon is at 189.
Fourteen Chinese journalists — who were in the United States on a study tour funded by the State Department's International Visitor Program — were expelled Friday, after some in the group laughed and cheered at scenes of the terrorist attacks in New York.
President Bush yesterday ordered that American flags remain at half-staff for another week as a sign of respect for the victims of the attacks. Under the proclamation, government buildings and other facilities will fly their flags at half-staff through Sept. 22.
In an interview yesterday on CNN's "Evans, Novak, Hunt & Shields," Rep. Porter J. Goss, Florida Republican and chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, said a case can be made for keeping Reagan Airport closed permanently for security reasons due to its proximity to federal buildings.
"American citizens work in those buildings. And if they are going to continue to be targets, and we have not been able to remove the threat another way, then, perhaps, prudence is to keep it shut," the Florida Republican said.
Long lines, delays, and limited service remained the order of the day at most airports throughout the United States yesterday, and officials at Dulles and Baltimore-Washington International (BWI) airports said those were the conditions at both those airports.
"A lot of people — thousands of them — are waiting in long lines in the main terminal. Patience is definitely a virtue here," Dulles airport spokesman Tom Sullivan said in a telephone interview yesterday.
At BWI, airlines asked that passengers arrive four hours before their scheduled departure time. Previously, they wanted passengers there two hours before they were scheduled to leave. The extra time will allow them to go through the heightened security mandated since terrorists hijacked four commercial airliners Tuesday. Two of them slammed into the World Trade Center. One smashed into the Pentagon. The fourth plane crashed in rural Pennsylvania.
"I guess the airlines now believe they need four hours" to get passengers processed and cleared by security for boarding, a BWI spokeswoman said yesterday.
In explaining its decision to lay off 12,000 employees — about a fifth of its work force — Continental Airlines cited a "drastic" drop in bookings in the past four days and the operational and financial costs of dramatically increased security requirements as key factors.
The financial plight of the airline industry has led many analysts to say that some players could be put out of business. Congressional leaders are considering a variety of ways to assist the troubled industry, including direct aid, loans and a bill that might limit their liabilities from crashes.
Rep. John L. Mica, Florida Republican and chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure aviation subcommittee, said Friday the amount of aid being discussed is between $2.5 billion and $12 billion. Some of the cash would go to insurance firms that indemnify the airlines, he said.
There were efforts to get such assistance pushed through the House on Friday night, but the bill was withdrawn. It is expected to come up again this week.
The White House said yesterday Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta plans to meet with beleaguered airline executives as early as tomorrow. But the Bush administration has not said if it will endorse direct cash outlays for the airlines.
Meanwhile, Mr. Goss, on CNN, hailed CIA Director George J. Tenet, saying he is "doing an extraordinarily good job."
As for the CIA's failure to detect plans of the terrorist attacks, the Florida Republican said Mr. Tenet "has inherited an organization that has been underfunded, under-resourced and deals with capabilities that are not entirely designed for the types of threats and technologies that we have today."
This article is based in part on wire service reports

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