Despite fears, Americans take to skies, roads
A strong urge to be with family this Thanksgiving impelled many to pack bags
Refusing to be cowed by terrorism, many Americans are pushing through the fog of fear this Thanksgiving and stepping into planes, trains, and automobiles.Skip to next paragraph
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To be sure, many aren't flying: The airline industry expects a 15-to-20 percent slump compared with last year.
Yet even if it means going by train or bus or car, a majority of Americans are bucking any fear of traveling for at least three basic reasons: a stronger-than-usual yearning to be with family, a defiant sense that terrorism "wins" if they stay home, and a bargain-hunter's delight at discovering the many airfare and hotel deals out there.
Take Athina Giannopoulos. For the past 12 years, this plastic surgeon and mother of two stayed home in Durham, N.C., for extended-family Thanksgiving feasts full of fare from her native Greece.
This year, however, she and her family are jetting off to, of all places, Hong Kong and Tokyo. "We shouldn't show anybody we're afraid to travel," Ms. Giannopoulos insists in a steely tone. "Because that's what they want." Besides, since Sept. 11,"We're trying to see the world in a more global sense," she says. And traveling helps.
Or there's Kali Jo Reynolds, a veterinary student at the University of California at Berkeley. After her father decided he could not face his annual plane flight to visit her, she announced she was coming to him, despite his adamant objections.
" 'Honey, I don't want you to fly,' " Tom Reynolds told her.
"Dad, don't worry about it," came the response. "I'm not afraid."
Shaking his bearded head and smiling warmly, Mr. Reynolds says, "I guess you can't tell a 27-year-old what to do."
Some statistics also hint at people pushing past fear.
One survey of leisure travelers found 14 percent saying their holiday travel plans had been affected by the Sept. 11 events. Yet since the attacks, airlines have cut their capacity by more than 25 percent, observes Edward Hasbrouck, author of "The Practical Nomad" travel-advice books.
The gap between those numbers, he says, hints that while many business and vacation travelers are canceling their flights, fewer holiday travelers are doing so.
"The desire to get together with family" - the reason behind most holiday travel - "is enough to overcome the fears that have been keeping people off planes since Sept. 11," says Mr. Hasbrouck.
Indeed, many planes flying since Sept. 11 have been virtually empty. But most observers expect holiday flights to be full-to-bursting.
For Giannopoulos, who's headed to Asia with her family, being airborne this holiday season is one of the best things she can do for the country.
"We need to support the travel business," she says.
Also, she wasn't looking forward to a season of high-priced gifts and parties, which seem shallow.
"It's a little different this year," she says, "a little sad." In fact, their family isn't doing presents this year - just traveling. "This is a year to enjoy other things, family things, and singing - not shopping."
But if family considerations aren't a strong-enough motivator, maybe money is.