MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Scanning the tranquil ticket area at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, Mary Ann Mallak couldn't help but feel sorry for an airline industry that's obviously hurting financially.
Mallak, 68, of Little Falls, had just come home from Texas on Monday on a flight that had more empty seats than occupied ones.
"It's as safe as it can be right now," Mallak said. "We just have to go on faith."
Jeff Klinefelter, 33, noticed the difference, too, as he and a business colleague arrived at the airport to catch an evening flight to Phoenix.
"It feels like a ghost town," he said.
Klinefelter's company, U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray, is leaving it up to employees whether they want to fly. Many, he said, are choosing to stay grounded for awhile.
Amid fears of a dramatic downturn in revenue, the commission that oversees the airport announced Monday it would freeze nonessential new construction and possibly delay the opening of a new runway amid fears of a dramatic downturn in revenue.
The Metropolitan Airports Commission also will consider rearranging the main terminal layout to place security checkpoints beyond airport restaurants and shops hit hard by new regulations.
The commission expects projects that are under way to be completed, although possibly at a slower rate. The new runway was to open in December 2003, but that may be pushed back, said Jeff Hamiel, the MAC's executive director.
"The bottom line is we're talking about a dramatic, significant shift in the way the airport operates," Hamiel said.
Before last week's terrorist attacks, the commission had already cut $4.2 million in expenses because of higher utility, overtime and winter maintenance costs and because lower passenger counts were hurting parking revenue.
New FAA regulations have shut down short-term parking ramps at the Twin Cities airport, which will cost the commission an estimated $1.3 million each month unless MAC can convince the FAA to waive its prohibition on parking within 300 feet of a terminal.
Another new FAA restriction allows only people with tickets past security checkpoints. That means far fewer potential customers for the businesses at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport, which send 10 to 14 percent of their sales to MAC.
Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe, DFL-Erskine, said that he and others are looking at ways to help Northwest Airlines, which has the state's largest payroll.
In the early 1990s, the Metropolitan Airports Commission loaned Northwest $270 million and the state loaned the airline $40 million.
"There may be a way we can restructure that debt to save them money," Moe said.
Also Monday, the airports commission swore in seven new security officers, all of whom had been hired before Tuesday's attacks.
"Boy, do we need you," Charles Nichols, the commission chairman, told the new officers. "You are the most wanted people around today."
Airport public safety director James Welna said the number of sworn officers now stands at 65, up about 10 positions from the same time last year. The airport also has 22 uniformed traffic officers.
On Monday, the airport was busiest early. Welna said some 400 people were waiting at checkpoints about 5:30 a.m., but by 8 a.m., the lines ran to 10 to 20 people. By afternoon, the airport was nearly deserted.
At security checkpoints, travelers were passing through one metal detector, then a second, then holding their arms out to be checked with a security wand, then physically patted.
The MAC displayed a table full of objects taken from passengers since air travel resumed on Thursday: scissors, corkscrews, pliers, Swiss Army knives, letter openers, sewing kits, forks and even nail clippers.
"My advice to people is to think about what they're carrying. Don't carry anything that can cut aboard an aircraft," said Gordon Longton, commander of the airport police's security division.
Northwest, which controls about 80 percent of the traffic at the airport, is flying only 80 percent of its former schedule due to cutbacks in response to reduced passenger demand and new security measures.
Before the cutbacks, Northwest had about 1,700 daily departures systemwide, not counting those of its partners such as Northwest Airlink, airline spokesman Doug Killian said.
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