September 4 — Lynn Dudish, of Johnstown, had been operating a successful travel agency for over 10 years when the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 sent shock waves across the country and the airline industry.
“It turned our business upside down,” Dudish recalled this week in a telephone interview. “The government shut us down for two to three weeks. No one was allowed to travel.”
In addition to processing refunds for those whose upcoming trips have been canceled, Dudish and his staff at the former travel agency Carlson Wagonlit Good News were busy dealing with people stranded away from home by the shutdown.
“We try to rent them cars – anything to get them home,” she said. “They wanted to be with family, which was understandable.”
At the same time, Dudish was president of the Keystone chapter of the American Red Cross.
“Most of the time I was in Shanksville,” she said. “I went to my office at night, trying to save what my staff was unable to complete. It was long days and long nights, trying to keep the agency afloat.”
Although airlines have gradually resumed operations, the response to September 11 has since had a profound effect on airports, airlines and travelers. New rules at screening checkpoints created new restrictions on what could be carried on planes.
“The safety lines were incredibly long because no one knew what they were doing,” Dudish recalls. “The passengers weren’t sure what to bring on board.”
“Leave more time”
Local business leaders Ed Sheehan Jr. and William Polacek saw the transition through their own frequent travel, but also through the logistics of travel for company employees.
Sheehan is President and CEO of Concurrent Technologies Corp. and Polacek is President and CEO of JWF Industries. The two were interviewed during breaks from this week’s Showcase for Commerce in Johnstown.
“It took a good two years for people to even feel comfortable flying,” Polacek said. “Most were driving instead of flying.”
Security delays sometimes forced businessmen to leave meetings earlier to catch their flights, he said.
“You had to allow more time,” Polacek said. “There is nothing quite like holding a flight anymore.”
Most people have been patient with the heightened surveillance in the months following 9/11, Sheehan said.
“As time went on, people became less patient,” he said. “They get more anxious.”
Passengers have become more aware of what can go through screening, reducing some of the delays.
“The public just got used to it,” said Raymond Porsch, a Johnstown businessman and former member of the Johnstown-Cambria County Airport Authority.
In addition, the Transportation Security Administration’s TSA PreCheck program and the United States Customs Service’s Global Entry program allow frequent travelers to bypass the lines, “making things faster for everyone,” Porsch said.
A five-year membership costs $ 85 for TSA PreCheck or $ 100 for Global Entry. Either membership allows travelers to use the PreCheck screening line, while Global Entry helps international travelers reduce time spent through customs.
“It allows me to get in and out of the country very quickly,” Porsch said. “I’m at customs in about 10 to 15 minutes.”
Screening processes represent a fundamental change in the approach to security. The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks described the loopholes that allowed 19 terrorists to board four commercial planes on September 11, 2001.
“Federal rules require air carriers to conduct an incendiary check in hold baggage,” read the commission’s preliminary findings.
“At the (passenger) checkpoint, metal detectors were calibrated to detect firearms and large knives … In most cases, these checks were carried out by contracted security companies. with the responsible air carrier. “
“All they worried about was the guns,” Polacek said. “It created a whole new dynamic.”
Business leaders and most travelers have accepted the changes as necessary to protect the public and the nation, Sheehan said.
“It was all in the name of security,” he said.