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America's New War: Aviation Takes Biggest Hit After Terrorist Attacks; Afghanistan, Too Tough to Occupy?

Aired September 26, 2001 - 13:47   ET


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: As we have been reporting for a number of days now it is the airline industry that has taken the largest hit since the attacks of September the 11th. All of the airports in the nation though, have been open, but for one, and that is the one here in Washington -- Reagan National Airport.

There have been efforts to get it back open but because of security concerns that has not happened yet. CNN's Kathleen Koch is at Reagan Airport right now to bring us up to date on the efforts to get it open --Kathleen.

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Judy, as you see, it is a beautiful brisk fall day here in the nation's capitol, a beautiful day for flying. But look behind me at the runway here at Regan National Airport. Not a plane to be seen, not on the runway, not in the skies. As you said, this airport the only one in the nation remaining closed.

The scene is similarly dismal when you pan around and you take a look at the departure ramp. The departure ramp is also completely desolate. No passengers, no sky caps, not a person inside. And this is really, Judy, having a huge impact on the local economy. Some 4,000 of the 10,000 employees normally working here at Reagan National Airport have been let go.

Normally there would be some 300,000 flights a year coming out of this airport. All of that now stopped. Airports -- excuse me, not airports, but hotels in the area are virtually empty, restaurants, gift shops, taxis, car rental businesses, everyone suffering serious losses because of this.

This airport handles, Judy, usually about 42,000 passengers on a daily basis. That pumps into the local economy some $5 billion of business revenues over the span of a year. So it has really hit hard here. The news also about one of the airlines that flies out of this airport, Delta, firing some employees, many of them due to be laid off by the end of the year. That joins a long list of other major airlines that, since September 11, have had serious layoffs.

We will go down the list: AMR -- American Airlines 20,000 laid off United Airlines: 20,000. Continental: 12,000. U.S. Air: 11,000. Northwest: 10,000 layoffs. British Air: 7,000. Swiss Air: 3:000. America West: 2,000. Now the FAA is saying the outlook for business to pick up for the airlines at this point is not very good. At last report, in a hearing yesterday, they said that most of the carriers are, at very best, flying only about 55 percent full. Judy, contrast that to the weeks prior to September 11 when most flights were pulling out virtually full. So it is sad times for the airline industry and not likely to recover any time soon.

WOODRUFF: I've never seen -- I haven't been to the airport since September 11, and it looks like a different place.

KOCH: It is.

WOODRUFF: Kathleen Koch, thanks very much. As Kathleen was saying, tens of thousands of people have been laid off since the attacks that took place two weeks ago. CNN's Brian Palmer has a look at just how difficult the outlook is for many of those who don't have a job anymore.


BRIAN PALMER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Airlines say the financial damage caused by September 11 and the national fear of flying that resulted is in the billions. The major passenger carriers may start seeing cash as early as next week from the $15 billion bailout approved by Congress. But that's little consolation to workers being laid off in the wake of the crisis -- about 100,000 of them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've gotten a double whammy today. I have not only still as of today, we still have my cousin missing, I'm also losing my job.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's devastating. It is very painful for me to lose my job. I love my job here.

PALMER: Ramp service worker, Perry Esposito (ph) has worked at TWA for 16 years, since he was 18.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I see myself now starting over again and maybe even a different trade, maybe even a different industry, starting from the bottom up again.

PALMER: His fiance also works for an airline.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She will walk away with nothing, not even severance pay, no medical, dental.

PALMER: Industry representatives say layoffs are a necessary emergency measure. But many airlines were struggling financially before the attacks.

DAVID TREITEL, AVIATION CONSULTANT: This shock still exacerbated what was already a adverse environment and created a disaster.

PALMER: The airlines hope the bailout will prevent bankruptcy and buy them time to win back frightened customers. More customers means fewer layoffs.

TREITEL: The bailout helps keep the capacity flying to a greater level than it would without the bailout. That's the benefit that the average worker gets.

PALMER: The average worker who still has a job. The bailout doesn't contain any financial help for those getting laid off.

(on camera): A bill introduced in Congress would set aside close to $4 billion to extend unemployment benefits and fund retraining for these workers.

(voice-over): Some companies, among them, U.S. Airways and Continental, have agreed to pay severance. Northwest and American say they will not. TWA, a subsidiary of American has yet to make a decision leaving Perry Esposito on stand-by wondering about his future.

Brian Palmer, CNN, New York.


WOODRUFF: And in connection with all this, we know President Bush will be traveling to Chicago tomorrow, among other things, talking about the airline industry, encouraging Americans to fly again. At the White House, Ari Fleischer says he plans to fly home to New York City for the Jewish holiday, Yom Kippur, which starts tonight.

Our coverage continues in a moment. Christiane Amanpour in Pakistan. We will be right back.


AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: A country that would be impossible for an invader to occupy and almost impossible for anyone to govern, it might very well be Afghanistan. For a look at Afghanistan and how it got to be the way it is today, here is CNN's Christiane Amanpour.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Afghanistan, rugged, treacherous and wild, where great powers fought their great game, but never won. In 1842, only a single British soldier survived of 16,000 in retreat.

In 1989 the Soviet Army suffered such heavy losses that it withdrew, and then the empire collapsed.

ABDUL SATTAR, PAKISTANI FOREIGN MINISTER: Those who intervened in Afghanistan and tried to plant their own preferred leaders on Afghanistan, paid a very high price for that blunder.

AMANPOUR: A blunder that Pakistan says it, too, made, when it imposed its own proxy government in the 90s -- the Taliban. But this blunder was born in the vacuum left when the United States lost interest after the Soviet Army pulled out. To defeat the Soviets, the CIA and Saudi Arabian intelligence had poured billions of dollars in arms through Pakistan's intelligence services to the Afghan Mujah Hadin (ph) , and holy warriors who had come from all over the Islamic world.

It worked, but then Afghanistan was left with weapons, warlords and Islamic zealots.

(on camera): So with U.S. and Saudi approval, Pakistan then installed what it hoped would be a unifying and stabilizing government, the Taliban, from the majority Pashtun (ph) ethnic group. Instead, Afghanistan has become the epicenter of instability in this region, its principle export, Islamic insurrection and terrorism.

(voice-over): Now, a new great game may be fought over Afghanistan. The anti-Taliban, Northern Alliance, is making some military gains and Pakistan doesn't like it, warning the U.S. and others not to pour in weapons again.

SATTAR: We are concerned, we read news that groups upon groups are asking for foreign military assistance. The Northern Alliance has said so. AMANPOUR: The Northern Alliance is a network of majority groups whose allies include Russia, Iran, and Pakistan's great rival, India. Pakistan now knows the Taliban's time is all but up. But it still needs a friendly government on its border, acceptable to its own large Pashtun population. RIFAAT HUSSEIN, PAKISTAN ANALYST: What Pakistan would like to see is a non-Taliban, but a Pashtun elect government in Afghanistan in which the Northern Alliance and, in fact, all the other minorities, Tajiks, and the Uzbeks and the Hazaras (ph) get adequate representation because now is, I think, the time to push for this idea of a broad-based representative government.

AMANPOUR: A stable Afghanistan could also eventually be a major trading route enabling Central Asian states on its northern border to export vast oil and gas resources, via Pakistan to the world market.

Pakistan wants the United States to help reconstruct Afghanistan, wants it to stay engaged this time. Christiane Amanpour, CNN, Islamabad.


BROWN: The country of Afghanistan, we end this hour of CNN's coverage of "America's New War," continues in a moment.



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