September 2, 2005

Airlines ferrying hurricane victims out

By Jeremy Pelofsky

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. commercial airlines plan to
ferry more than 25,000 New Orleans residents displaced by
Hurricane Katrina from the city to safer locations, the airline
industry and the U.S. government said on Friday.

Airlines including financially strapped carriers like Delta
Air Lines Inc. and Northwest Airlines are participating in the
operation and will dispatch residents initially to Lackland Air
Force Base in San Antonio, Texas.

Both major runways at Louis Armstrong New Orleans
International Airport were open and four flights per hour were
going in and out, according to Department of Transportation
spokesman Greg Martin. That includes military aircraft.

The airlines are volunteering dozens of aircraft and crews
are offering their time to fly the planes, according to the Air
Transport Association. Some of the aircraft are arriving with
relief workers as well as law enforcement officers.

"The airlines' resounding offer of support will help us
move more people to safety and more supplies to relieve
suffering," Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta said in a

Additionally, the agency is working to restore the
Gulfport-Biloxi, Mississippi airport to full operating status.

The Transportation Department said it has sent more than
500 buses to New Orleans and there is an attempt to arrange for
Amtrak to take some evacuees out by train.

Additionally, federal rules have been waived that limit the
hours repair crews and truck drivers hauling gasoline, diesel
and jet fuel can work, the agency said.

The airline industry has been hard hit since the September
11, 2001, attacks and have been facing additional difficulties
with soaring fuel prices. Several airlines are either in
bankruptcy or could seek such protection soon.

Other airlines aiding the evacuation effort are: Alaska
Airlines; America West Airlines; AMR Corp.'s; JetBlue;
Southwest Airlines; UAL Corp.'s United Airlines; US Airways and
Air Canada.

Cargo carriers are also assisting, including FedEx, United
Parcel Service and ASTAR Air Cargo.