Area residents say they plan to keep flying

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 19, 2006

NATCHEZ &8212; Locals aren&8217;t planning to stop flying, but they may change the way they do it after Thursday&8217;s terror plot was revealed.

Natchez travel agent Margaret Rowe has several customers with trips already planned, and no one has canceled yet, she said.

Rowe was in contact Thursday with a group of 10 travelers who plan to leave Europe today and a group of six who plan to leave Saturday.

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Many flights out of England were canceled or delayed after British police uncovered terrorists&8217; plans to mix liquids on board to detonate a bomb and destroy the plane. Twenty-four people have been arrested in connection with the plot.

Airlines across the world imposed new rules against carrying liquids, lotions and gels on board.

&8220;(My travelers) are aware of what they have to do and are comfortable with the situation,&8221; Rowe said. &8220;I have told (all my customers) to wear an armor of patience, follow the rules and if they can get away with traveling without carry-on luggage the better off they will be for it.&8221;

Natchez-Adams County Airport Manager Clint Pomeroy said Thursday&8217;s news will definitely slow travel for a while, but not forever.

&8220;It may turn a few people off, but I think the industry will continue,&8221; he said. &8220;There are people that are uncomfortable flying, and we can&8217;t help that. But people that have to fly will fly, it&8217;ll just take a little more time.&8221;

And it may mean business travelers look for alternative means of flying like private jets, smaller planes or charter flights, Pomeroy said.

That kind of change would impact the Natchez airport and private pilots like local Tom Borum.

Security changes will make traveling commercial a slower process, Borum said, and for some, time is money.

&8220;It&8217;s just a different world we are living in now,&8221; he said. &8220;People are just going to have to change the way they look at things. There are a lot of people in Natchez that would use (charter) service a lot more than they use it now. Cost-wise it&8217;s certainly not that much difference. Convenience is certainly well worth it. I think it&8217;s going to lean toward that.&8221;

Natchez resident Lara Griffiths grew up in England and recently moved back to the United States. Many Europeans already travel carefully, she said.

&8220;Coming from the U.K. to the U.S. we flew out of Holland,&8221; she said. &8220;When it gets like this and there&8217;s a big alert, people tend to think, &8216;how else can I do this,&8217;&8221; she said.

Terror is nothing new for the British, Griffiths said, but they don&8217;t let terror stop them.

&8220;I grew up with terrorism because of Northern Ireland,&8221; she said. &8220;All through my childhood that was a big risk. It was more of an everyday part of your life. I just think America was isolated from that for so long that they have no experience with it.&8221;

Natchez resident Terry Estes said he saw the British respond to a similar situation with a no-nonsense attitude last year during the London subway bombings.

Estes and his wife were in England on business when the attacks happened.

&8220;When you are in a foreign country and you wake up and hear sirens going, it is scary,&8221; Estes said. &8220;But they are not quite as forgiving as we are. The British voice is strong.&8221;

Yet, Thursday&8217;s threat is enough to make Estes reconsider any immediate trips, he said.

&8220;I wouldn&8217;t jump on a plane right now,&8221; he said. &8220;Once they get these people apprehended, a few weeks to a month, it&8217;ll be back to normal.&8221;

World leaders compared the potential attacks to Sept. 11, 2001, something Pomeroy said the American airline industry had just fully recovered from.

&8220;Intelligence has improved greatly since 9/11,&8221; he said. &8220;We were able to do something before the disaster. An airplane in the sky is something that is susceptible to sabotage or terrorism. Security is going to have to adapt to the changing threat.&8221;