Fearing the airline industry could be the first casualty of the war on terror, the CEOs of major carriers are begging Washington for a bailout.

Gordon Bethune, CEO of Continental Airlines, called on the president and the members of Congress to take, "immediate action to restore the stability of this vital industry in which our whole nations economy heavily depends."

Already in trouble, the beleaguered industry lost about $6 billion in total market capitalization on Monday as stocks of the top six U.S. airlines plunged by as much as 50 percent when trading resumed for the first time since hijacked planes were used in last Tuesday's terror attacks.

With ticket prices expected to go up and more time required to get through increased security, experts fear that an overall negative climate in air travel will be created and the airlines will suffer for it.

Industry analyst Denney Kelley noted, "It's going to cost them dearly and there's going to be some bankruptcies because of it."

Continental was the first big carrier to announce layoffs. Citing a drastic decline in demand for air travel caused by Tuesday's terror attacks and the operational and financial costs of dramatically increased security requirements, Continental will be forced to lay off about 12,000 employees.

Will the federal government step in to save the airlines?

The first attempt at a $15 billion federal bailout of the industry failed in the House on Friday, when members said additional time was needed to consider solutions. Now the industry is asking for $15-20 billion.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., chair of the Senate Appropriations Transportation Subcommittee, noted, "We want to make sure we make the right decisions and don't just have a federal bailout that costs the taxpayers an incredible amount of money."

Michael Tobin joined FOX News Channel (FNC) in 2001 and currently serves as a Chicago-based correspondent.