More Pain for the Airline Industry?

Christmas Day was full of joy here at the Beyers household. The passengers of Northwest Airlines Flight 253, to Detroit from Amsterdam, weren't as fortunate. They were the victims of an apparent terrorist attack.

Various news agencies are now reporting that a 23-year-old Nigerian man named Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab allegedly tried to ignite an explosive device on board the flight as it was descending. Both the attacker and some passengers were injured in the fire that ensued. Thankfully, there were no fatalities.

Officials want to keep it that way. So when it comes to air travel, America is back on lockdown. According to a statement from the Transportation Security Administration, travelers may see additional security measures for international flights.

At least one traveler tweeting about the changes over the weekend, industry analyst Charlene Li, said that she was prohibited from using any electronics during her flight from Montreal to Chicago on Dec. 26.

If this crackdown persists, expect business travelers to be unhappy. They're used to cracking open their laptops for work during long-haul flights. Delta Air Lines (NYSE: DAL  ) , AMR Corp.'s (NYSE: AMR  ) American, UAL's (Nasdaq: UAUA  ) United, Southwest (NYSE: LUV  ) , and JetBlue (Nasdaq: JBLU  ) have either enabled or toyed with enabling Wi-Fi in the sky to cater to these more profitable customers.

And what of the device industry? Portable geekery such as Amazon.com's (Nasdaq: AMZN  ) hot-selling Kindle will have to remain in your bag. Thumb jockeys won't have their smartphones to play with in-flight. Overanxious kids won't be able to lose themselves in Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) iPod touch (once again a hot gift item this Christmas). On long flights, that's a problem.

This could hurt carrier profits, if the gadget stow-away policy is extended to domestic flights. Add-on services such as in-flight Wi-Fi were to be a key ingredient to the industry's turnaround.

But that's my take. Do you agree? Disagree? Leave a comment below to explain your thinking or offer alternatives.

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Fool contributor Tim Beyers is a member of the Motley Fool Rule Breakers stock-picking team. He had stock and options positions in Apple at the time of publication. Check out Tim's portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Twitter as @milehighfool. The Motley Fool is also on Twitter as @TheMotleyFool. The Fool's disclosure policy has an unnatural fear of tray tables. Yeah, we can't explain it either.


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Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On December 28, 2009, at 4:54 PM, vetcor wrote:

    Closing barn doors after the fact is not likely to increase security. So, restricting electronics, not being able to use restrooms and all the other silliness does not reduce flying risks. Nor does putting 2-yr olds and elderly US citizens on the security-threat lists. Intelligence gathering, security training, security awareness, as well as inter-agency communication and cooperation is the best we can do at the moment. We will need to get the politicians out of the security business as a first step. Good luck with that last suggestion.

  • Report this Comment On December 29, 2009, at 2:10 AM, LDSGJA wrote:

    The Terrorist was reported to the FBI by his father. His father told reporters that he was surprised his son wasn't on the no-fly list. Our country really needs to get its security act together.

  • Report this Comment On December 30, 2009, at 8:48 PM, jjoyce6018 wrote:

    Even flying on a twelve hour international flight, I find it easy to NOT play with "gadgets" it is a small price to pay, given the the creativity of terrorists and their determination to score another "big hit" on the U.S.

    Seems rather silly to worry about playing with your notebook, kindle, cell phone etc. during a flight especially considering the consequences of a terrorist successfully bringing down your plane in flight.

    My real worry is that most of these security measures are behind the curve, or after the attempt fails or succeeds. The most successful attacks most probably be newer more creative attacks that may not even involve commercial aircraft, in fact while we focus on this area, they very well may be hatching something away from where we are focusing ?

    The President is releasing known terrorists from GITMO to return to jihad, our security looks bad, given this attempt, and the security breeches at the White House, also the fact that the President's staff, CIA, FBI, and other government agencies seem NOT to be cooperating with a President who continues to use the media to point fingers and blame others for everything that goes wrong, no doubt everyone in the government services is laying low, to stay out of trouble...not a good sign for us !

    Maybe a good time to not worry so much about playing with gadgets ?

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