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Airport Businesses Suffering

Sam Eaton
09/27/2001

Airport businesses are facing tough times due to tighter security measures. At Sea-Tac airport, a decrease in foot traffic through magazine shops and restaurants is causing sales to plummet. And with no end in site, airport workers are beginning to worry about the future of their jobs. KUOW’s Sam Eaton reports.

THE CONCOURSE KIOSKS AND SNACK SHOPS AT SEA-TAC AIRPORT ARE USUALLY BUSTLING GATHERING SPOTS FOR FAMILIES AND FRIENDS AS THEY GREET OR SEND OFF THEIR LOVED ONE’S. BUT NEW FEDERAL RESTRICTIONS ALLOWING ONLY TICKETED TRAVELERS OUT TO THE GATES, HAS IN ESSENCE CUT OFF THE STREAM OF CUSTOMERS THESE BUSINESSES DEPEND ON. LOUVONIS (LA-von) MCGAYHE (ph) WORKS AT “FOOD ON A RUN,” A SNACK SHOP IN THE MAIN CONCOURSE. WHILE BUSINESS HAS ONLY SLOWED SLIGHTLY FOR HER, SHE SAYS HER COLLEAGUES ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE SECURITY CHECKSARE FEELING THE PINCH. Since this stuff happen, they beefed up security and they’re not letting them through there so it’s really hurting the business over there, they talking about a lot of layoffs and stuff, and it’s really gonna hurt a lot of people. AIRPORTS ALL ACROSS THE WEST ARE REPORTING THAT BUSINESS IS DOWN ROUGHLY 30 PERCENT. RESTAURANTS, GIFT SHOPS AND TRINKET STORES ESTIMATE SALES' LOSSES SINCE THE TERRORIST ATTACKS OF UP TO 60 PERCENT. BUT RETAIL BUSINESSES AREN’T THE ONLY ONES SUFFERING AT THE AIRPORT. MICHAEL WASHINGTON SITS ALONE AT A DESK TRYING TO COLLECT DONATIONS FOR “ONE NATION UNDER GOD MINISTRIES.” FEWER PEOPLE ARE PITCHING IN THESE DAYS. WASHINGTON SAYS BEFORE THE ATTACKS HE WOULD RAISE UP TO 600 DOLLARS ON A TYPICAL DAY. NOW HE’S LUCKY IF HE GETS 150. We used to get enormous, enormous donations, but today it’s been really, really slow, so I guess that everybody’s mind is on what’s going on out there in the war that’s getting ready to happen. NOWHERE ARE THE SECURITY CHANGES MORE APPARENT THAN THE AIRPORT DRIVES. CARS DROPPING OFF AND PICKING UP PASSENGERS HERE HAVE SLOWED TO A TRICKLE AS POLICE CHECKS DIVERT MOST DRIVERS TO THE PARKING GARAGE. THAT COMBINED WITH A BAN ON CURBSIDE CHECKING HAS LEFT AIRPORT SKYCAPS LIKE WILLIE VENSON WITH LITTLE TO DO. We’re not checking curbside check-in and there’s not a whole lot of people that you can help inside, they using the easy-rollers cause the line’s so long, so they have to get those, so there’s not anything out here. (question: So what’s your day consist of?) Standing around here reading the newspaper, trying to look busy, and hope that someone will drive up and hope that somebody will drive up and need help inside. VENSON TAPS HIS FOLDED NEWSPAPER AGAINST AN EMPTY LUGGAGE CART. HE MAKES MINIMUM WAGE WORKING FOR THE PRIVATE SECURITY COMPANY THAT’S CONTRACTED BY THE AIRLINES. VENSON’S SEEN ROUGH TIMES BEFORE, WHEN THE SECURITY CRACKDOWNS OF THE GULF WAR THREATENED HIS JOB TEN YEARS AGO. BUT NOW, HE SAYS, HIS PROSPECTS ARE LOOKING BLEAK. It went good that time, because we knew it wasn’t gonna be a long term thing, it was just a temporary thing, it only lasted a month anyway. Now this might be permanent. WITH THE NEW SECURITY MEASURES IN PLACE INDEFINITELY, AND TALK OF EVEN TIGHTER RESTRICTIONS TO COME, THE QUESTION ON EVERYBODY’S MIND HERE, IS HOW LONG CAN THEY HOLD OUT BEFORE THE LAYOFFS BEGIN. AT SEA-TAC AIRPORT, I’M SAM EATON, KUOW, 94.9, PUBLIC RADIO.
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