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Who's afraid to fly on September 11?

By Katia Hetter, CNN
updated 9:50 AM EDT, Tue September 11, 2012
Although Tuesdays aren't busy travel days during a normal week, many travelers don't appear to be avoiding flying on Tuesday, September 11, 2012, according to several airlines and travel agents.
Although Tuesdays aren't busy travel days during a normal week, many travelers don't appear to be avoiding flying on Tuesday, September 11, 2012, according to several airlines and travel agents.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Saying they will not let the terrorists "win," travelers say they'll fly on 9/11
  • Lower passenger numbers may be attributable to Tuesdays being slow travel days
  • Many flight attendants have volunteered to work on 9/11 to honor their 25 fallen colleagues

(CNN) -- In the few years immediately after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, many travelers avoided flying on that day if they could help it.

Airlines expected lighter than average traffic and often offered lower prices on flights departing that day, said George Hobica, founder of Airfarewatchdog.com.

Time, apparently, has helped some people's fears fade.

Refusing to fly on September 11 lets the terrorists win, suggested many commenters on CNN's Facebook page within moments of the travel question being posted. "9/11 should be the busiest day for air travel," wrote Ronaldo Perez. "We cannot let the terrorists think that we are afraid."

"If we don't (fly), we are giving in to fear and letting it control our life," wrote Julie Roscoe Shaw. "Besides, God is in control of the end of my life, not a terrorist!"

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Fewer people normally fly on Tuesdays

While the U.S. airlines contacted for this story wouldn't provide any specific information about passenger traffic on September 11, a Southwest Airlines spokesperson said they didn't see anything unusual in this week's bookings.

"In the years immediately following 9/11, air travel always significantly dipped on September 11," wrote Mike McCarron, a spokesman for San Francisco International Airport, in an e-mail. "This year is no exception, but the dip in traffic is not as dramatic as in past years, and may be attributed to normal midweek declines in traffic."

It's true that Tuesday is typically one of the slowest travel days of the week, most airlines confirmed, so airport and airline staff aren't expecting to see high traffic volumes anyway.

Travel agents interviewed by CNN.com weren't reporting even isolated reports of business and leisure travelers declining to travel on September 11.

"I wouldn't say people want to fly, but the general feeling is that if we don't fly and we're afraid, they've won," said Ellen Sisser, manager of Omega World Travel's Bethesda, Maryland, office. "We can't give up living." And practically speaking, "there are those who think that the last place that would be attacked that day would be a plane."

Hotel bookings haven't slowed down much either, even in high-profile cities, according to Bob Diener, president and co-founder of Getaroom.com and co-founder of Hotels.com. "We're showing very high occupancy in New York City (hotels) and rates are pretty high. We're not seeing any significant impact."

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Facebook commenter Christopher Moser agreed. "Yes I have (flown on 9/11) and would again. There is a better chance of me getting hit by a bus crossing the street."

The same is true for one Manhattan travel agency. "9/11 will always remain in our hearts and memory, especially for the NYC/Tri-State area, but inevitably life goes on," wrote Kimberly Wilson Wetty, co-president of Valerie Wilson Travel. "So, 11 years later, we are not seeing tomorrow as any less busy of a travel day."

That doesn't mean the Transportation Security Administration, the airlines and airports won't be on high alert, although they are not communicating many details of increased security to the public.

"There is no credible or specific intelligence to indicate terrorist organizations are plotting attacks to coincide with the 11th anniversary of 9/11," said U.S. Department of Homeland Security spokeswoman Marsha L. Catron, in a statement. "However, we know from the intelligence gathered from the Bin Laden raid, that al Qaeda has shown an interest in specific dates and anniversaries, such as 9/11.

"We continue to encourage our federal, state and local partners, as well as the American public, to remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity to local authorities," wrote Catron. "Our security posture, which always includes measures that are seen and unseen, will continue to protect the American people."

San Francisco International Airport officials have told employees that there may be an increase in local and federal law enforcement throughout the airport. Employees were asked to report any suspicious activity to airport officials or to call 911.

Several U.S. airlines, regardless of whether they lost crew, will hold private memorials. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the World Trade Center site and runs the major airports in the New York-New Jersey area, will hold its annual Interfaith Remembrance Service at St. Peter's Church at 2 p.m.

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Mourning by working that day

For the nation's flight attendants, the memories are still fresh, the fallen more than names on a memorial.

Many are choosing to fly on September 11 as a way to honor their 25 fallen colleagues from American and United Airlines, said Veda Shook, international president of the Association of Flight Attendants, whose nearly 60,000 members work at 21 airlines.

The Association of Flight Attendants is asking for a moment of silence on September 11 at 8:46 a.m., when American Airlines Flight 11 struck the World Trade Center's North Tower.

"It was a seminal event that has bound our flight attendant community, said Shook. "Every flight attendant knows where they were that day."

How do you feel about air travel on September 11? Did 9/11 change any part of your routine? Let us know in the comments below.

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