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Saturday, Dec 9, 2023

The Briefing

Things were humming along at their usual pace inside the main terminal at the Burbank Airport on the morning of Sept. 11. Passengers hustled to boarding gates to await departures for San Jose, Oakland, Phoenix or wherever else business that day was taking them. Then terrorists roughly 3,000 miles away turned four commercial airliners into weapons of mass destruction, killing thousands in the process. A wave of mandated security measures, airline layoffs, flight cancellations and sharp declines in the number of passengers willing to travel by air quickly followed. The Burbank Airport’s governing board has shelved plans for a new terminal until the airline industry bounces back, and has sold a chunk of its adjacent property to cover a portion of its losses. Business at Burbank has slowly returned to near-normal levels, as airport Executive Director Dios Marrero recently told Business Journal reporter Jacqueline Fox. “When the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon caused the FAA to ground all aircraft, the word reached the Burbank Airport before any of our morning flights had departed. Our immediate concern was to communicate with passengers who had already arrived at the terminal of the need to cancel their travel plans and leave the airport, since it was clear air operations would not resume that day. “Surprisingly, the evacuation of the terminal facility turned out to be a very smooth process. Passengers who had begun boarding aircraft came back into the terminal and seemed to grasp very quickly the gravity of the situation and that there would be no air travel that day. They did not linger. They returned to their cars and left. In about an hour, the entire facility was virtually empty. “For the next several days the main task of the airport’s operations and security staff was to coordinate with the FAA, the airlines and local law enforcement agencies to ensure that new levels of security were in place. “There was also daily monitoring of unfolding events to better assess when the FAA might permit resumption of airline service and to prepare our security and operations divisions for that event. “The traveling public today is in a much more secure environment. The travel experience includes additional security measures that add steps to the processing of airline passengers. Our experience is that the airport’s customers not only accept whatever additional inconvenience this causes, but actually welcome the additional screening and visible presence of additional security personnel.”

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