Coast Travel Agencies Hit Hard By Terrorist Attacks

Friday was Denae Anderson's last day in business in Ocean Springs. She opened the "Travel Network" agency more than a year ago. Now, she's packing up, and pulling the plug on that dream.

Anderson says she feels very sad, because the business was her dream and she sunk a lot into it, but for what? Anderson says the recent cuts in airline commissions were hard enough on her business. But since the terrorist attacks on September 11th, she has lost a lot of money.

Anderson says people are canceling flights, they want to get refunds, and people still have a fear of flying. She says people are also worried about the economy, so they're not travelling as much.

Rae Anne Ryan agrees the industry has been hit by a double whammy. She is a consultant at Travel Affiliates, which owns three offices on the Coast. Ryan says the company has been forced to cut back on its staff. Ryan says two people have been laid off, and she has asked other agents to consider taking time off without pay.

Several other travel agencies on the Coast say right after the attacks, they lost a lot of customers. But they say more people are starting to fly and travel again, and business is picking up.

But Denae Anderson is not sticking around, to see if she'll recover anytime soon. She says she doesn't have the money to go on. Anderson thinks the bigger travel agencies have the capital and they can hold on until the industry bounces back. As for the little guys, they may have to do what she's doing -- shut down to cut your overhead.

A group of travel agency executives is asking Congress for $5 billion in federal assistance, for companies that have lost business since the September 11th attacks. Congress has already approved a $15 billion aid package for the airline industry.

By: Trang Pham-Bui