Wednesday afternoon, shortly after a midday deadline to lift the historic ban on all commercial flights, the federal government announced that limited flight service would resume, but only for the flights canceled in yesterday’s terrorist attacks.
Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta said that only after “airports and airlines have implemented strict security measures” will passengers be allowed to reboard their flights and continue to their original destinations. Otherwise, U.S. airspace remains closed indefinitely.
Most pilots were diverted to other locations on Tuesday. Many international flights were diverted to Canada and Bermuda. Canadian airport Pearson International in Toronto had as many as 500 international flights diverted to their runways. Canadian officials estimate that about 30,000 passengers and flight crews were stranded in a nearly dozen airports throughout Canada.
An undetermined number of domestic flights were redirected or grounded Tuesday,
The FAA was not sure when regular service would open for all flights and further updates will be announced by the White House once new airport security guidelines are in place.
Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta said heightened security may cause delays. “There will be higher levels of surveillance, more stringent searches. Travelers may experience some inconveniences, but we ask for your patience. We must do whatever it takes with safety as our highest priority.”
The airline industry had been ordered to improve its “vulnerable” security system following a series of scathing reports by the General Accounting Office and the Transportation Department’s inspector general.
FAA spokesman Les Dorr warned that security would be as strict as during the Persian Gulf War. Travelers should expect longer check-in times, more security guards and random searches, and the curbside baggage check-in would be eliminated.
Delta Air Lines, the third-largest US airline, announced they would resume flights after 6pm and United Airlines hope to begin flights after 7pm with FAA permission. Several airlines have waived change fees and will provide certain refunds.
Mid-Way Airlines, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy August 13, said all flight operations were canceled entirely and 1,700 employees had to be laid off immediately. The airline industry already has reported economic losses this year and expects to suffer more.
Travel agents and aviation officials recommend that travelers find alternate means of transportation since no definite deadline is given to resume regular air service and, once completely open, flight service will probably be congested.
The FAA shut down all US airspace Tuesday in response to the terrorist attacks in which four commercial airplanes were hijacked and slammed into the World Trade Center Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and a location outside of Pittsburgh.
Details on the planes that crashed Tuesday:
American Airlines Flight 11: Boeing 767 en route from Boston to Los Angeles.
Crashed into a tower of New York’s World Trade Center about 8:45 a.m. EDT.
United Airlines Flight 175:Boeing 767 bound from Boston to Los Angeles.
Crashed into the other tower of the World Trade Center shortly after 9 a.m.
American Airlines Flight 77: Boeing 757 en route from Dulles Airport near Washington to Los Angeles.
Crashed into the Pentagon about 9:40 a.m.
United Airlines Flight 93:Boeing 757 en route from Newark, N.J., to San Francisco
Crashed southeast of Pittsburgh around 10 a.m.