Aftermath: Agents, consumers share their thoughts

HONOLULU -- Travel agents selling Hawaii and consumers vacationing here said a fear of flying following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks will be a factor in any vacation now but will not figure too heavily in the decision to return to the islands.

Jackie Curtis, an agent at Carlson Wagonlit Travel/Travel Center 4 You in Tacoma, Wash., said she has a plan for dealing with clients who express concerns about taking a vacation to Hawaii.

"If and when people do start calling with concerns about flying, I am going to tell them that now is going to be safer than at any other time in the history of aviation, with all the new rules being put in place."

Edwin Cuago of Walnut Creek, Calif., who was visiting Waikiki in the days after the attack, is one of those consumers who doesn't like to fly.

"This flight out here from San Francisco is the longest flight I have ever been on," said Cuago.

"But I love it here, and I will come back regardless of the terrorist attacks. And the airports are beefing up security, so that makes me feel better."

He added that flying to Hawaii is fine, but "I wouldn't fly out to New York."

Sharon Organista, a travel agent with Carlson Wagonlit Travel/Your Travel Center in Santa Barbara, Calif., said she does not believe the public will stop traveling because they are afraid to fly.

"I think a lot of people will continue to travel -- I really do," said Organista.

"I think some people will be apprehensive," she added. "I had some people going out a week after the attacks, and their only concern was getting out because of the delays.

"Whenever there is a plane crash or there are troubles in the world and people are scared, the problems are usually remedied and people go on with their lives.

"I think the people who are afraid to fly to begin with are the ones who will be affected the most."

Ronald Clark, a visitor to Waikiki from Bradleyville, Mo., who was stranded after flights were stopped for two days, said he would not return to Hawaii again, "at least not on a plane."

"I believe I'd take a boat next time," said Clark. "Or at least I would go somewhere where I could drive home if I got stuck. But if a person is going to be stuck somewhere, this sure isn't a bad place to be."

Laura Walker, co-owner of Hawaiian Travel in Irving, Texas, said she had some clients cancel Hawaii vacations scheduled for the days and weeks immediately following the terrorist attacks.

"A lot of them are saying they are not in the mood to go on vacation right now," said Walker.

"But a lot of them are saying they do plan to reschedule for later this fall or for the first of the year. [As for] those who want to cancel, I try to tell them that they shouldn't live their lives in fear."

Walker agreed with Organista that those clients who were afraid to fly before the attacks will be the ones most likely to cancel following them.

"Some will be afraid to fly, and some will want to get on with their lives, but the ones who were afraid to begin with will be the ones who say 'no way, not now.' "

Marcella Samuelson of Colorado Springs, Colo., who was visiting Hawaii with her husband on a one-month working vacation, said she's afraid to fly within the mainland U.S. and internationally but not to Hawaii.

"I was supposed to go to Italy for a wedding, and now I'm not," said Samuelson. "I am OK flying from Los Angeles to Hawaii, but from Colorado Springs to Los Angeles, I'm not sure now."

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