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Travelers Concerned About Industry, But Still Flying With AM-Airline Mess

May 26, 1989

DALLAS (AP) _ Turmoil within the airline industry has some passengers a little nervous, but they’re still flying and generally want the government to stay out of the business.

Random interviews by The Associated Press with travelers at big airports nationwide suggested the underlying demand for airline seats remains strong as the country heads into the traditional Memorial Day summer kickoff.

At the same time, the traveling public has a high level of awareness on issues confronting the airline industry - an Eastern Airlines strike and aging aircraft among them.

Flying ″is probably less safe because some of the jets are a lot older,″ said Mike Osborne, a St. Louis businessman passing through Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport this week. ″Structurally they’re beginning to have problems, I guess.″

Many carriers are rushing to buy airplanes to expand and replace their fleets. On Tuesday, the National Transportation Safety Board reported an ″industrywide deficiency″ in the inspection of the popular but aging Boeing 737 airplanes.

″Everybody’s on strike,″ Richard Siska, a St. Louis businessman said in Chicago. ″You’ve got management doing work that they’re not qualified to do, and it’s the passengers who take the risks.″

Despite the concerns, ″flying is still safer than driving,″ said Jason Manning, a jewelry salesman traveling through Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

A businessman at Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport said the government shouldn’t reassert its regulatory authority over the airline business, which it largely relinquished 10 years ago.

″Prices are going up, there’s no question. A lot of it is to cover their operating expenses,″ he said. ″But because of deregulation many airlines are marking down their prices to compete. Passenger traffic is up, but I think they are concentrating on improving their aircraft and upgrading maintenance.″

″The airlines are doing just fine now and competition will establish the price,″ he said.

Cynthia Kensy, an Air Force airplane mechanic traveling through Chicago, was one of the few who said more regulation is needed.

″It’s letting people get a little loose with what they do,″ Ms. Kensy said. ″Safety, service, they’re all sliding a little bit here and there.″

The changes in the industry are having some effect on the airports, depending on their connections with specific airlines.

Atlanta, for example, is a major hub for Eastern and, ″at times it certainly has been more hectic due to the Eastern strike,″ said a Delta employee.

But at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, the main effect of the Eastern strike is expected to be a boost in public relations value.

DFW spokesman Joe Dealey said the reduction in Eastern’s operations in Atlanta should allow the Texas airport to leapfrog over Hartsfield to become the world’s second or third busiest airport.

DFW last year ranked third in operations behind O’Hare and Hartsfield and fourth in passengers behind those and Los Angeles.

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