- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 19, 2002

LONDON (AP) Airline traffic over the North Atlantic, which slumped after the September 11 terrorist attacks, is picking up again.

American Airlines and British Airways said yesterday that business is going so well that they are increasing the number of flights on their trans-Atlantic routes.

Traffic on North Atlantic routes was down 7.7 percent in February compared with a year earlier, but that was a strong improvement on October's year-to-year decline of 31.3 percent.

"There was a brief period after September 11 when I didn't want to fly to the States, but that quickly went away and now I have no problems at all with it," said Cambridge businessman Chay Morgan as he waited at London's Heathrow Airport yesterday for a flight to Detroit.

The rebound comes none too soon for British Airways, which reported a 20 percent drop in traffic volume in the fourth quarter of last year. On Feb. 13, the airline announced it was cutting 5,800 jobs, raising its total reductions since August to 23 percent of its work force.

Some passengers said they were unconvinced that the public had shaken off its fear of flying.

David Logue, 27, an information-technology specialist from London who was catching a flight to Boston, said many people in business "are trying to avoid traveling."

"There's a lot more use of video- and audio-conferencing. It's too early to say that confidence is back," he said.

British Airways said its February traffic volume measured in the distance flown by paying customers was down 2.5 percent from a year earlier, compared with January, when the figure was down by nearly 7 percent.

Traffic figures for American routes were 3.5 percent lower in February and 8 percent lower a month earlier, the airline said.

In the month after September 11, the number of Britons visiting New York dipped by 59 percent, compared with the previous month.

But yesterday, American Express Travel said the number of Britons visiting New York for short breaks is back to the levels of spring 2001.

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