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Remembering 9/11
More 9/11 flights this year
Reluctance to travel on first anniversary caused cutbacks; airlines see 'normal' traffic this year.
September 10, 2003: 6:16 PM EDT

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Airlines are trimming their schedules slightly Thursday, though not nearly as much as they did on the first anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, as more passengers apparently are treating the second anniversary as just another day.

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Statistics from the Official Airline Guide, which tracks flights worldwide, show that the number of domestic U.S. flights scheduled for Sept. 11 this year will be about 7 percent below the schedule for comparable Thursday activity on Sept. 4 or Sept. 18. Worldwide flights are off only 2 percent from this week or next week, while flights to or from the United States are off 6 percent.

While the decline is measurable, it is far less than the 12 percent cut in both domestic flights and those to or from the United States scheduled for Sept. 11, 2002, compared to the previous or following week, or the 5 percent reduction in scheduled flights worldwide.

"These findings suggest an increased confidence, both in the carriers who've made decisions not to reduce flights as well as the consumers who continue to fly," said Joseph F. Laughlin, vice president, OAG data.

Overall the OAG data shows 25,778 domestic U.S. flights scheduled for this Thursday, which is up 3 percent from the number of flights scheduled a year ago.

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Some of the biggest U.S. airlines say they are not changing their schedules for this Thursday, adding that their bookings for this year are much closer to normal.

"Both our flight schedule and our bookings look like a typical Thursday in September," said Julie King, spokeswoman for Continental Airlines, the nation's No. 5 carrier.

A year ago, the major airlines cut their schedules on the first anniversary of 9/11 because people were reluctant to book flights on that date. This year the only airline that confirms it is cutting its 9/11 schedule is United Airlines, but spokesman Jeff McAndrews said the extent of the cutback is far less than a year ago, although he didn't have hard numbers on either reduction.

"We are running a slightly reduced schedule this time," McAndrews said. "If we have eight daily flights between two points, we may go to six."

While the overall miles flown by air passengers so far this year still lag both the comparable period last year and in 2001, the airlines are seeing fuller airplanes because they have cut capacity. Those two factors combined are helping carriers keep a more normal number of flight this Thursday.

"We're seeing stronger bookings and therefore have had less of an impact on our schedule than we saw last year," said American Airlines spokesman Todd Burke. He declined, however, to discuss specifics of scheduling at the world's largest carrier this week.

Less overall attention has been paid to the second anniversary of 9/11 than there was to the first anniversary, which could also lessen any impact on flight plans this year.

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"I think there is still definitely mourning going on, but people are getting back to traveling more normally," said Delta Air Lines spokeswoman Catherine Stengel.  Top of page

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