Fear Factor Changes The Face of Air Travel

LONDON -- Fear of flying has soared since last week's U.S. suicide hijack attacks, aviation psychologist Robert Bor said Monday.

And the terror grips aircrews just as much as businesspeople jetting around the world. Bor's consultations have doubled since the tragedy.

"The airline industry is in for a terrible time over the next few years. People will shy away," said the professor of aviation psychology at London's Guildhall University.

"Air travel has changed for evermore," he said.

"I have had double the number of consultations over the weekend. In the next six months we are going to see a lot more work," he said of his job as counselor to aircrews and passengers gripped by a fear of flying.

The sight of a plane being deliberately flown into a skyscraper is indelibly seared on people's memories. Bor's patients are now most terrified by the prospect of hijackers ready to die for their cause.

"Hijackers once used the situation to coerce and get their demands met. But their intention was to walk away. Now they intend to die, and that is what has alarmed people and added to the fear of flying.

"There are people out there who want to die and that is a very frightening thing. Instead of people looking forward to flying, this will now always be tinged with a degree of apprehension. It is an ?innocence lost' scenario," he said.

He said the close-knit world of aircrews had been rocked to its foundations. "Many feel shaken. They feel part of their extended family has been hurt."

And the business executive who once thought nothing of hopping on a plane will be much more hesitant. "There will be a lot more questions about whether a trip is necessary, is there a cheaper and safer way, am I putting my family at risk?"

He said "air rage" assaults by drunken and rowdy passengers on aircrew would become a thing of the past as many airlines contemplated the use of armed guards on board.

"That will be totally intolerable on planes nowadays. That will probably disappear. Offenders may well find themselves being severely treated," he said.

n?Shares of videoconferencing providers surged Monday as investors bet corporate travel restrictions and Americans' concerns about flying may benefit the industry after last week's attacks, analysts said.

The videoconferencing sector was one of the few bright spots Monday when the U.S. stock market resumed trading.

Polycom, which makes video communication equipment and software, jumped 32 percent to $25.35; Polycom's merger partner, PictureTel Corp. added 13.5 percent, to $5.20; and ACT Teleconferencing soared 35 percent, to $6.76.

"With increased security and limited flight availability, we expect business travel to drop precipitously. However, business must continue. Therefore, we expect to see a significant increase in demand for videoconferencing," Pacific Growth Equities analyst Brian Alger said in a research report.

The attacks last Tuesday sparked a surge in demand for videoconferencing services as businesses and families tried to locate friends and loved ones, and emergency workers tried to coordinate rescue efforts.