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Robert Schmidt, CEO of CarrosellDavid Plavin, president of Airports Council International

This is a partial transcript from Your World with Neil Cavuto, December 26, 2001. Click here to order Wednesday's entire transcript. 

TERRY KEENAN, GUEST HOST: Americans' confidence shaken again after the shoe bomber incident. And today, New York's governor, George Pataki, was at JFK International Airport to help kick off a new campaign called Keep America Flying.

Here now is the campaign's co-founder, Robert Schmidt. He's also the CEO of the airport advertisement company, Carrosell; and David Plavin, he is president of Airports Council International. And gentlemen, welcome. I would hate to be in your shoes, no pun intended. But, you know, Bob, I was at a party over the weekend before this incident on Friday night. And I was surprised to see that a lot of my friends had resumed their holiday plans and they're flying off to the Caribbean, then this.

How can you mount an effective PR campaign when security just continues to seem so lax?

ROBERT SCHMIDT, KEEPAMERICAFLYING.ORG: Well, it's not just a PR campaign because if it is a PR campaign, it won't work. What we're attempting to do is organize the industry, to really address the problems that exist. One, security; two, congestion; three, pricing; and four; the comfort of the passenger. So, our intent is to collect all the brains in the airport industry and have them think about how to affect and change the problems and make solutions. So then the PR will work.

KEENAN: And, David, you represent the airports. Given what is going on in terms of security, we're all going to have to spend a lot more time at the airports, so I would think it's incumbent on you making it a more comfortable experience.

DAVID PLAVIN, KEEPAMERICAFLYING.ORG: I think that's right. And now that the federal government has taken on the responsibility for employing the screeners, it is going to be a big issue as to whether there are enough of them, whether they are properly trained, whether they are in the right places, whether they are properly equipped with the right tools and so on.

KEENAN: Yet how do you address the concern among people that security is just reactive? They are checking people's shoes now because there was an issue with shoes over the weekend. And you see the pictures of everyone having to remove their loafers or whatever. And you say to yourself, "Oh, gee, what are they missing?

PLAVIN: But I think security really is significantly tighter than it was. I think it is a work in progress as we learn more about what the issues are, what the risks are and who the people are that are looking to perpetrate these crimes.

KEENAN: Bob, are you efforts focused more on the individual traveler or the business traveler?

SCHMIDT: Both. The business traveler has cut back on his traveling and the individual traveler has done as well, although a lot more people are traveling today than did right after September 11.

I'm concentrating on the airline industry. I think they have an obligation to do things with the government to make it better for everybody, make it safer for everybody and then communicate that. I think one of the problems is people want to know what is going on. And so whatever gets done to make it better, that information should be transferred out to the public.

KEENAN: Yes, I agree. I mean, I think the issue there is that a lot of travelers feel that the airlines aren't doing enough and they would prefer to have an airline say, "Hey, we are going to be just like El Al, the Israeli airline. We're going to copy their security procedures. Come fly with us."

SCHMIDT: I think you are going to get there eventually. I think it's not so easy to do it overnight. I think that the process was not very good for a long time. And it takes time to change. But they are changing and they are attending to it. They are hiring new people and they are getting new equipment and they're getting a better process going. But it takes a while to get it done.

KEENAN: And, you know, Dave, we don't really think of airports as shopping malls, but in lots of ways, they are, particularly now that we have to spend so much time there. How big of a component of the economy are all those airport retailers?

PLAVIN: The airport retailers are being very badly hurt. The average passenger loads at airports are down 18, 19, 25 percent in some cases, in some cases more. And it's not so much that the airports are passenger malls or shopping malls. It's that that's what the people who fly seem to want. And if they are not flying, then they are not buying.

KEENAN: And just quickly, Bob, you think the situation will start to improve in the new year?

SCHMIDT: There's no question it will. It will take some time and it will take some good information out to the public to help it do so.

KEENAN: OK. Thanks, gentlemen. Good to have you with us. It's a tough job ahead for both of you.

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