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A year ago, AA was the only one of the big three that was interviewing. DAL had already stopped and UAL was pooling people like SWA is today. There was even a UAL pool list on top of this website.
There is no question SWA would be in a better position today and CAL which was doing a great job of recovery had posted I think 25 straight quarters of profitability. People went through a period of time when they were afraid to fly but I think the majority of the problem was coming anyway because the highly profitable business travel sector was shrinking. Filled seats are good, but ones filled with "dot commers" who didn't care about how much the seat cost was better.
The fact is, 9/11 did happen. Debating the what ifs is a waste of time. We need to believe in ourselves as a nation and what we are capable of doing. Being fearfull of what is over the hill didn't get America discovered let alone settled. FDR in the depths of the depression said "The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself". I think this holds true today. We are afraid of what might happen. Look at all of those empty seats they are reporting for this 9/11. If I were able to (presently on duty in Afghanistan), it would be fun to fly that day to show the terrorists they haven't won!
We need to get business folks traveling again - assuming, of course, that their accountants left any money in the till.
I like to play 'what if' as much as the next guy, but in this case it doesn't help anyone. If those ragheads didn't do what they did, then yes, a lot of us would be in a different position right now. But the truth of it is, they changed our American way of life. What do we do about it?? We accept the reality of our life and press on.
Try theorizing about this one "If your aunt had balls, she'd be your uncle". It's a lot less stressful than playing the 911 "What if" game.