Airline industry needs
fed help to stay aloft
The issue: Lawmakers may aid the
airline industry after last
week's terrorist assault.
PRIOR to the terrorist attack, the nation's airlines were experiencing large financial losses. The suspension of commercial air traffic following the assault knocked the airlines into a tailspin that could continue indefinitely unless federal assistance is provided. President Bush has recognized the potential for economic catastrophe and is preparing relief measures for Congress to consider. Hawaii's congressional delegation should offer full support for aid to airlines, which are vital to the state's economy.
Hawaii stands to be damaged more than almost any other state because of its reliance on air travel to serve tourism, its largest industry. However, travel and tourism are the third-largest employment sector nationwide, employing 1.1 million people and generating $582 billion in annual revenue. Neither Hawaii nor the nation can afford to see this critical sector of the economy seriously impaired over a lengthy period.
A decline in high-fare business travel and rising labor and fuel costs had caused airlines to suffer losses before last week's assault on the United States. Analysts predicted yearly losses of $3.5 billion in the aviation industry. Merrill Lynch & Co. now predicts those losses will exceed $6 billion.
Diplomatic and military efforts will be needed to bolster consumer confidence in the U.S. economy, while increased security measures will be important in providing assurance about the safety of air travel. Those goals will take at least several months to achieve, but aviation needs help to survive in the meantime.
National airlines have announced they will be forced to reduce flights by as much as 25 percent and lay off employees in the tens of thousands. Several airlines face imminent bankruptcy unless help is offered. Aloha Airlines says the reduced market has forced it to cancel one-fourth of its flights. Hawaiian Airlines is also expected to scale back its operation.
In the past few days, airline executives have lobbied for a bailout as large as $24 billion. The Bush administration and congressional leaders reportedly have agreed on a $15 billion relief package. It may be similar to an existing House proposal containing loans, loan guarantees and tax forgiveness, along with direct grants to compensate for the losses incurred from the airport shutdown.
The measure may find some opposition. Sen. Fritz Hollings, D-S.C., chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, groused about airline executives' $120 million in salaries and bonuses this year" and indicated he would support assistance only "if they give up monopolistic control of the nation's hub airports." Those concerns may be valid, but they should be set aside in dealing with an industry plight that obviously springs from the terrorist assault.
Crooks use attacks
in schemes to steal
The issue: Swindlers are cloaking
themselves in the mantles
of legitimate charities.
Times of crisis bring out the good and the bad. The good have opened their wallets to donate to charities for victims of the terrorists attacks. The bad have used the disaster to prey on those who want to help.
Little can be done legally or immediately about the vultures who scam for money by e-mail, telephone calls and house-to-house visits. Catching these vile excuses for human beings is difficult, says the Better Business Bureau of Hawaii. The best way to counter them is to check out any group that asks for money, according to Anne Deschene, president of the Hawaii bureau.
"The right arm of crooks is disaster," Deschene says. "They use these events as cloud cover." In the past week, the bureau has received more than the usual number of calls from the public, asking questions about charitable groups and fund drives, which is good. People are aware and on the lookout for swindlers.
Scam artists can be inventive. The American Red Cross warns that solicitors using business cards printed with a small red cross on them have gone through neighborhoods asking for money. Look-alikes or masquerades have tried to get credit card or bank account information by claiming financial records were destroyed when the World Trade Center collapsed. Legitimate businesses do not operate this way, authorities say.
Before making a donation, the bureau advises that people carefully check on the charity. It is best to give to charities you know and trust and earmark the money for a specific purpose. Be wary of requests by e-mail, telephone, mail or even in-person solicitors. Do not give out credit card, Social Security, bank or personal information. Don't be pressured to give immediately; need will not disappear before you can ask questions. Get details on how your donation will be used; some groups use tragedies to raise funds for unrelated purposes. Call the Better Business Bureau at 536-6956 or on the Web at www.hawaii.bbb.org, which has a list of verified charities. Families should stay in touch with their elderly members who are usually targets for scams. Deschene advises that their mail and phone calls be monitored for tricksters.
It is heartening that charities have collected more than $200 million for attack victims. Legitimate organizations are to be commended for their generosity. It is disgraceful that there are those who would use the calamity to steal. They will reap what they sow.
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