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CNN Larry King Live
Interview with Norman Mineta and Donald Carty
Aired November 19, 2001 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight -- exclusive -- the chairman and CEO of American Airlines, Donald Carty. His company lost two planes to terrorism September 11, and a third to undetermined causes just last week. And we'll take your calls.
But first, President Bush has signed a new aviation security bill into law. If you are afraid to fly, should this make you feel safer. In another exclusive, Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta. They're next on this special edition of LARRY KING LIVE.
We begin in Washington with Norman Mineta, the secretary of Transportation. Are you happy with this bill signed today?
NORMAN MINETA, SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION: Absolutely, this is the first time that the federal government will have the direct responsibility for the screening responsibility. Up to this point, it is really been basically the responsibility of the airlines contracting with screening companies. So, for the first time, this becomes the direct responsibility of the federal government.
KING: And under what concept of it is under your aegis? I understand there will be an undersecretary of Transportation for Security. Is it your responsibility -- the running of this?
MINETA: That is correct.
The Department of Transportation, under this legislation, will have a Transportation Security Administration headed up by an undersecretary who reports to me. And, so, the new undersecretary will have the responsibility for not only aviation security, but also for maritime, and for things related to, I guess you might say, land services: highways, bridges, transit, railroads. So it is a three- fold, three-model administration security agency.
KING: Will you appoint the person?
MINETA: Yes, sir, I will. And we are looking for that person right now and hope to have a name to the president in the not too distant future.
KING: Do you have -- we know -- and forgive me if I say Norman because I've known you a long time.
MINETA: Absolutely, Larry, no problem.
KING: Do you have a list?
MINETA: We do. And it is like any list. You are going over it in terms of who has been nice and who has been naughty. So, it is a nomination by the president, subject to confirmation by the Senate.
And so this is a large responsibility. Within one year, we'll have to have a very large workforce in place to be able to deploy people to airports across the country for screening of passengers and baggage, federal air marshal responsibility, as well as the overhead responsibility of the Transportation Security Administration.
KING: You have said zero tolerance for aviation security. Does that mean what it sounds like? Zero and that is it?
MINETA: That is right. That is -- again, that is the kind of goal that we are trying to drive at. And I think that since the president declared war on terrorism, the American people understand that very much. They know that life has changed since September 11.
And so I think people are expecting higher, heightened security measures which we put in place right after September 11 tragedies. And towards the end of October, I went to what's referred to as the zero tolerance program and had our agents across the country say to airports if they don't do their screening properly, then the agents are in a position to deplane passengers, have them rescreened, and if they have to, delay flights or to shut down a terminal, if the proper procedures are not being followed.
KING: Would you say, unequivocally, despite the accident last week -- and we will talk to Don Carty about that -- American -- that flying is safer than pre 9/11?
When you think about the increased visibility of security at the airports, whether it be the local law enforcement, or the work of the screeners themselves, or the National Guard, there are many facets about the security that has increased that is visible. But there are also things that you don't see on the surface, that have also been improved for the safety and security of the flying public.
KING: How about the equipment used to check the people, the baggage, the x-rays and the like. One, are we set up for this? And how sophisticated is it?
MINETA: Well, one of the things that we are going to be looking at under this new legislation is what other new technologies are there that we can rely on.
For instance, most people have identification badges which they wear around their neck or clip to their clothing. And when they get to an airport, they swipe it through the security device, they then punch a four-digit number into the door and it opens and you go in. Frankly, I would like to get rid of all that and go to maybe a hand print or retina examination or to some kind of facial biomedic approach so that you don't have to carry this kind of identification around, something that might be duplicated or stolen.
But each of us through, whether our eyes or fingerprints, have our own individual identity. And I would like to go to that technology instead. But there are a number of new things that we are thinking about, including the expansion of the screening of baggage that goes into the cargo hold of the airplane as well as better methods of screening the passengers as they go through the magnetometer and the x-ray machines at the entry point to the airport.
KING: Is it -- is a lot of this for you learning on the fly, on the job? I mean, no other secretary of Transportation had to face this.
MINETA: Well, the fact that I was 21 years in the House of Representatives -- for those 21 years, I was on the Public Works and Transportation Committee. I chaired the Aviation Subcommittee for eight years and, in fact, was on the Aviation Subcommittee for the 21 years I was in the House.
So it is something I have lived with over a long period of time, know the technology, know the players in the marketplace, and know the CEOs who run the airlines, run the security companies. And so I have been exposed to this whole field for a long time and feel I know it pretty well.
KING: Where were you September 11?
MINETA: September 11, I was having breakfast with the deputy prime minister of Belgium, who is also the transport minister. And we were talking about aviation issues relating to United States and Europe. And then my chief of staff came into that meeting and said, "Mr. Secretary, may I see you?"
So I went into my office, and then on the television was the World Trade Center building. And he said, "Well we are not sure what's happened up there, but we heard it might be an airplane." And I said, well, keep me posted and I went back into the meeting.
And then, about five minutes, he came back in and said, "May I see you again?" So I excused myself, went into the office and they said it is an airplane. And it is a commercial airliner that ran into the -- that was flown into the World Trade Center. And as I was sitting there watching the television set, all of a sudden I see this gray object come from the right side of the screen. And then off the -- from the left side of the screen, I see this white-orange billowy cloud coming out.
And so I went in and excused myself, and about that time, the White House called. And I went over to the White House, got briefed in the situation room. And Dick Clark from the National Security Council staff said that I had to go over to the presidential emergency operation center with the vice president.
So the Secret Service agent took me over there, then was in the bunker there with the vice president as we were getting an update about what happened, when I heard that the third airplane had gone into the Pentagon, I then ordered that all the aircraft in the United States be brought down to the ground. And due to the great professionalism and the skills of the air traffic controllers, and the professionalism of the flight deck crews and the cabin crews, we brought down over 4,800 airplanes safely and without incident in about a two-hour time.
KING: Norman, thanks so much for joining us. You've got a yeoman task ahead.
MINETA: And I look forward to it. Thank you very much.
KING: I know do you.
The secretary of Transportation, Norman Mineta -- he said he knows all the CEOs. We've got one of them right with us. Donald Carty, the chairman and president and chief executive officer of the AMR Corporation. That corporation runs American Airlines.
He is next. Don't go away.
KING: He's got one of the toughest jobs in the country. He runs American Airlines and things couldn't be more difficult.
First, maybe on a brighter note, how does Thanksgiving look?
DONALD CARTY, CHMN & CEO, AMERICAN AIRLINES: Actually, Thanksgiving looks great. And it may be...
CARTY: It may be something about what's going on in the country. Maybe September 11 had an effect in the sense that people seem to want to be with family and friends.
KING: So you are booked Wednesday night?
CARTY: We are booked very heavily Wednesday, we are booked very heavy on Sunday and Monday for the returning traffic, and now again, the airline industry doesn't have as many seats out there as they had a year ago, but what's out there is full.
KING: Does that surprise you?
CARTY: It doesn't surprise me, in a sense. I have the same feeling myself. Our family wants to be with more family, so we are going to St. Louis to be with my in-laws.
KING: There is lots of talk about -- first, as we ask the secretary, where were you? How did you get the news?
CARTY: Well, let me just say, Larry, at the outset, it has been an enormously tough time for me, and even more importantly for our company. We have gone through an unbelievable period here. We have lost 36 of our family members, hundreds of our employees have been busy deployed, and trying to support the families of not only our employees that died but the -- many of our customers that died. We lost an enormous number of great customers.
And the trauma on the company, has made it very, very difficult for us. But to go back to the actual day, I was actually home, just leaving for the office.
CARTY: In Dallas, when I get a call from our operations people to tell me that one of our airplanes had been hijacked, that there was a flight attendant on the phone, and the air plane had been hijacked. We had confirmed by that conversation that it was indeed a hijacking.
And I told them I would be out immediately, and headed for the door, and that point I -- it suddenly occurred to me that maybe I should check whether the press had the story and I turned on the TV, and almost at the moment I turned on the TV, I saw them talking about something that struck the World Trade Center. And just in my gut, I knew it was our airplane.
And my wife said to me, could that be your airplane? I said no. Like saying no would make it not true. And it kind of went on from there.
KING: And when the second hit and then your other one hit the Pentagon, it was United and you, then the other and then United in Pennsylvania. What you were thinking that morning? What was going through your head?
CARTY: It was just -- I was just, I think like all of America, I was sort of traumatized be it. This could not be happening to our company, to our people, and to our country. And I think for all of us, it was just like being in a B-movie. It was just something that you almost couldn't believe was happening.
KING: Did you have to -- I mean, you had to make all the decisions in this, right?
CARTY: Well, yes, and no.
KING: Or did you -- because you were low profile for a while.
CARTY: Well, I was. I -- I'm tremendously blessed by having an enormously competent team at American Airlines. And in a strange way, the people that run the airline day-to-day, the operations people, middle management, are trained to deal with crisis, that is what they do. Whether that crisis is a thunderstorm, or a weather event in the northeast, or a runway incursion that takes some rerouting of traffic.
So they are trained. Their life is dealing with crisis. Now, they never expected a crisis of this magnitude, but I was so impressed with the professionalism with which they went about the task of making these decisions. And it really was only the large decisions that I made and my senior staff made, things like grounding the airplanes.
The secretary mentioned that he called for a grounding of airplanes because we were right in the heart of it we were kind of five minutes ahead of him on each of them.
KING: You were grounding before he was...
CARTY: We put a ground stop on airplanes departing about five minutes before the FAA did and then we grounded all -- we ordered all the airplanes grounded even before he did. So we were aware that this was a multiple event very quickly. I was on the phone to my counterpart at United and I was aware of what was happening there. And so we moved very quickly.
KING: What was it like to bring all those -- if a plane was flying over Omaha it went into Chicago.
CARTY: It went into the nearest point.
KING: Air traffic controllers had to start bouncing balls here, right?
CARTY: The did, air traffic controllers did, crew members, flight attendants, and that again was a piece of the burden on our people. Because suddenly we had our customers stranded all over the world, and for days, for days thousands of our employees were staying up late hours trying to take care of these customers, trying to take care of these customers, trying to assure them, trying to keep them informed, and try to do the work necessary to prepare to move them.
KING: What did it do to Don Carty emotionally?
CARTY: Well, I think the effect on me was like it was for much of the country. I was I was obviously traumatized by all of this, just...
KING: Shocked a little?
CARTY: Shocked. And the decisions that we were forced to make subsequently, not only did all these bad things happen to our people at American, but then we found that the financial consequence of what happened of September 11 meant we were going to have to down size the company. We were going to have to furlough a huge number of people just to save the rest of the company, and it was really just one piece of bad news after the other for me, for our people.
One really positive thing that I can think about this period, is that while I was moving around, trying to make the right things happen, trying to be supportive to our team, the thing that I can recall most of all is the tremendous support I felt for my line people.
When I go out and see our front-line people, our agents, our mechanics, our flight attendants, our pilots, they were all absolutely focused on getting the job done.
KING: Are you still -- have you bought up TWA?
CARTY: Yes, the TWA transaction is complete.
KING: Is it -- are you going to take away the name?
CARTY: We are, and in fact that happens in next couple weeks. December 3 will be the last TWA flight.
KING: There will be no TWA flights after...
CARTY: There will be no TWA flights after December 3.
KING: Did you have any second thoughts about that after September 11, or had it gone too far?
CARTY: Well, it had gone way too far and the great thing about it is, as we get through this period, it is clearle going to make our company stronger, and better.
KING: American Airlines, there were stories that sometime between -- there was in danger going out of business? No danger?
CARTY: No. I don't think there was any danger of it going out. We were concernedm as all airlines were, that the cash outflow was substantial, and that we were in a financial crisis and it was something where intervention was required.
But, we have been very careful at American to run the company in a way financially, where we have built a strong balance sheet. We knew this was a cyclical business. We knew there would be ups and downs. We never knew there would be downs like this. But we are better prepared than most of our competitors.
KING: Has government money come to you, or is that guaranteed loans?
CARTY: Some money came to us. The government actually allocated 5 billion dollars to the industry, as a grant to pay for the time that the airplanes were grounded and the ongoing economic effect of that. And then they are proffering $10 billion in loan guarantees. Of that first five billion, two and half billion of it or close to 2 1/2 billion has come to the airlines and we have received our share of that first...
KING: let's get into some things. After September 11, on October 8 a deranged plan on a flight, American Airline flight, runs into the cockpit, passengers tackle him, and you get escorted into Chicago by an F-16. How did he get in the cockpit?
CARTY: He got in the cockpit -- because this was prior to the period that cockpit doors were reinforced -- he got into the cockpit, but as you pointed out, both the cockpit, and the passengers were far more prepared for this kind efevent than they would have been on September 10.
KING: Shouldn't the cockpit have been locked? CARTY: The cockpit was locked. The cockpit locks prior to the recent implementation -- the doors have been relatively fragile.
CARTY: You could burst burst through most of the cockpit doors at the time. What we have done since then, and again, great credit to our mechanics, who actually stayed up all night with our engineers, engineering a new bolt for that door. In fact, it is more than a bolt, we call it a Katy Bar because it really bars the door.
KING: Katy, bar the door.
CARTY: Katy, bar the door.
KING: Is it on all the airplanes?
CARTY: Is is on all our airplanes, and in fact, we have shared that invention, of that Katy Bar, with all the other airlines and most of them have used that as their means of...
KING: So, you are saying now, you can't crash through the cockpit door of...
CARTY: You can't crash through.
KING: ... an American Airline plane?
CARTY: No, you can't.
KING: All right, after all of this comes the tragedy of 587. Where were you that morning?
CARTY: That morning I was walking into the office, and, I described September 11 as a b-movie, this was a nightmare. I -- I simply couldn't believe this was happening --
KING: Who told you? I can't remember which of the group did, but we -- all the senior officers ended up in a conference room, on the line with our operation center, and they were describing what they believed had happened. It was very early on in the game, there were a lot of press reports were confused, we had somewhat better information. We knew what airplane was missing, we knew it was an A- 300. And it was, as a say it was like a nightmare it was -- to believe this could be happening, to American Airlines, and to New York City again, just was almost beyond belief.
KING: We'll be right back with more of Don Carty. He's our guest the rest of the way tonight, and we will be including your phone calls. Tomorrow night we are going to discuss, at length, the perils of war. A lot of heroes including Scott O'Grady and Senator Bob Dole.
We'll be right back with Don Carty. We'll be taking your calls in a while, too. Don't go away.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: Don told me during the break that the reason he didn't come forward immediately afterwards, you felt that George Bush was the guy to speak then, right?
CARTY: Also, September 11 was a very different time, and that wasn't about American Airlines, that was about the United States of America. And clearly, George W. Bush was the CEO of the day.
KING: Before I ask you about this crash, and the plane itself, and what's gone on with that -- things you never think about. Do you contact the relatives, do you send people -- what is an airline -- what do you do?
CARTY: We not only contact the relatives, we have what we call a care team at American. And it's hundreds and hundreds of employees who have been especially trained to work with families of an incident like this ever occurs. And so, when an incident like this occurs we assign a team of two care members to every single family, they take care of their needs, they make sure if they want --
KING: They go to the house?
CARTY: They go to their house, but if they live in Los Aangeles, and the remains are in New York, or any of those things -- they'll get the family from here to there. They will provide for their hotel room, they'll get them anything they need. We've got a team in the Dominican Republic now, we've got a team in New York now. Unfortunately, in this most recent event, most of those employees are the same employees that went through this event of September 11, so we've got some pretty emotionally drained --
KING: What does it do to them?
CARTY: It is a very tough job. And that's why their training is so important, but it's a very tough job. I was at the memorial service in New York, yesterday, and I saw an awful lot of them with their families, and it's a time consuming job, it's kind of a 24-hour job. But it's emotionally hard, because you are dealing with people that are really grieving.
KING: That's care-taking.
CARTY: It is real care-taking.
KING: What about this plane? This airbus plane? What do we know?
CARTY: Well, as airline investigations it's also the case, that we never say we know everything, until the investigation is complete. And their highly -- they are highly complex, with a high degree of technical --
KING: Tell me about the -- about your history -- the company's history with that aircraft.
CARTY: The company's history with this airplane has been very good. We have used this airplane largely in the Caribbean.
KING: Built where?
CARTY: It's assembled in Toulouse, the various parts of airplanes are built in all parts of the world. In this particular case a lot of the parts are built in the United States.
KING: Assembled in France, though?
CARTY: Assembled in Touluse by Airbus. It's an aircraft that in our fleet, we have 35 of them, they range from about 12 years-old to 15 years-old. This particular airplane was 13 years. We have flown the airplane, probably very close to a million and a half hours, with virtually --
KING: Of all the A-300s?
CARTY: All the A-300s, including --
KING: The safety record?
CARTY: Safety record has been very, very good.
KING: Got any on order?
CARTY: We do not, because this airplane has been supplanted by subsequent models of airplanes. This is not a current model airplane, it was a one that was current 13, 14 years ago.
KING: When does an airplane go out of use?
CARTY: Generally, they go out of use when the economics of maintaining them and their efficiency, much of which is driven by fuel consumption, is supplanted by a new airplane. Chronologically, in our fleet airplanes would run 30 years, or so. These airplanes would be half-life airplanes.
KING: Now, everyone read or most people should have read that this airplane apparently had hit some turbulence 8, 9 years ago. And that the thinking is some structural damage, not being able to be seen occurred. Is that the thinking among your people?
CARTY: Well, it isn't Larry, again I --
KING: It isn't?
CARTY: It is not. I won't get into the details of the NTSB investigation, because the NTSB really is largely responsible for it. But this airplane has been through what we call a c-check since that turbulence incidence. And a c-check for us means a very comprehensive review of the airplane. The airplane is stripped down and an inordinate amount of inspection occurs, the airplane's in the shop literally for weeks. So this is an airplane that has had that kind of major overhaul since that earlier incident. So we don't think their related, but again we are going to abide our time while the NTSB studies it. KING: Are your engineers confused by the tail coming off? Which we keep hearing so many people saying they have never heard of.
CARTY: We are surprised confused, I will say we know wake vortex, this phenomena of the winds coming off...
KING: Getting behind another plane.
CARTY: ... the wings. Getting behind another airplane, in this case 800,000 pound airplane.
KING: Much bigger than yours?
CARTY: Much, much bigger. Creates tremendous disturbances, we know at least of one instance in the military, where two military airplanes in the same kind of situation actually lost two engines in a very similar circumstance. I think we need to know a lot more about exactly what happened, and exactly what forces might have been applied to that tail before we rush to any conclusions.
KING: As to what's happened societally -- as soon as you heard that story of Rockaway. Did you think terror?
CARTY: Surprisingly I didn't Most of the people I talked to that morning did.
KING: Sure did.
CARTY: But the changes, as you heard the secretary talk about earlier, that the changes in security have been far more comprehensive than most people realize. And I had a lot of confidence in them. I really do believe from a terrorism security point of view -- airplanes are probably the safest place in America today.
KING: So that never entered your mind? That someone took this plane into the Rockaways.
CARTY: I didn't. I really thought this was something else.
KING: How do you deal with employees and relatives? The pilot -- his wife and -- do you have a team that goes to them?
CARTY: Indeed we do. these are our family members. I knew four or five of the crew members on September 11.
CARTY: Personally. And I knew at least one on the 587 event.
KING: How many cancellations -- what's the percentage of cancellations after a crash?
CARTY: The cancellations that occurred as a consequence of 587 related mostly to the airports being closed. In New York, they closed all three airports for a period of time and then they kept Kennedy closed for a while longer because, in that time frame, there were still a lot of questions on a lot of people's mind, including a lot of public officials, that it could be a terrorist incident. So they really wanted to be sure that they had exhausted their review of Kennedy airport.
KING: What do you make of this bill signed today?
CARTY: I think it is a good development.
We -- there has been a lot of debate. There's a lot of disagreement in Congress as to the exact provisions. But I think, as usual, that debate has resulted in something that is going to be important to this country. The federal government taking over security at airports is clearly something that Americans wanted, in fact, the airlines wanted it. American advocated it as early as five years ago. So we are really quite pleased.
KING: You didn't want that responsibility?
CARTY: Well, we really felt that this was an issue of public security, about which the federal government knew a lot more than we did.
We also felt strongly that it wasn't just a matter of looking at x-ray machines. It was a matter of intelligence. And the federal government and its law enforcement agencies have a lot more intelligence about people that we should be concerned about than we do. And I think that linkage is a very good linkage for our for country.
KING: We'll get a break and be back with more. We'll include calls for Don Carty. He runs the show at American Airlines.
You are watching LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today, we take permanent and aggressive steps to improve the security of our airways. The events of September the 11th were a call to action. And the Congress has now responded.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with Donald Carty, the chairman, president, chief executive officer of AMR, that's the corporation, by the way, that runs American Airlines.
Does it have other businesses?
CARTY: Well, it used to. We are now singularly focused on the airline business. We have three airlines, soon to be two. One is American Eagle, one is American Airlines and one is TWA, but TWA is being merged right into American.
KING: United is going to give pilots stun guns. Are you?
CARTY: I think it is too early to make that call. The legislation that was signed by the president today does provide, under circumstances to be defined by the FAA, that pilots and cockpits could be equipped with weapons.
There are an enormous number of issues, however, about putting weapons in cockpits, including questions of: Do all pilots want weapons? I have got a raft of pilots who would like to have it. I've got a raft of pilots who, for various beliefs and reasons, don't actually believe in firearms.
KING: What do you think?
CARTY: My own view is, at least at this stage of the debate, that it isn't the most important element of security. The most important element of security, I believe, is not only the screening you see happening at airports, but better intelligence between the law enforcement agencies, the federal government and the airlines, screening passenger data, looking for possible or likely perpetrators, looking for profiles of people, behavior -- people's behaviors that might suggest that they are not who they say they are. And that -- and in addition to that, the discussion we are having earlier about guarding the cockpit door, I think all of those things are more fundamental to security than weapons in the cockpit.
KING: Does the public play a part in this?
CARTY: The public clearly does. I -- my own mind, what happened on September 11 could never happen again, not only because of the security steps that we have talked about, but because the traveling public is much more aware, much more alert, and wouldn't allow to it happen again as we witnessed in the United case.
KING: They would get up and...
CARTY: They would get up and do something about it.
KING: Marshals, are they on a lot of planes now?
CARTY: They are on a lot of planes.
KING: Is the airline aware of who they are?
CARTY: The captain is always aware of who have the sky marshals are. The traveling public is not. I only am when I travel if either the captain or one of the sky marshals indicates to me who they are.
KING: And they could be anywhere on the plane -- first class, coach.
CARTY: They could be anywhere. And they are not who you think they are.
KING: Does the government pay for the seat?
CARTY: The government does not pay for the seat.
CARTY: It is another piece of the economic burden of this new world we live in, post-September 11.
KING: Now what about manufacturers? Are they going to be able to make this equipment that we are hearing about, that it is going to measure eyes, and do securities and x-ray machines that are sophisticated. Are they really able to turn this out?
CARTY: I think they will. I think it is our job, ours and the federal government's, and I was glad to see Norm Mineta talking about it tonight, to decide which technologies we are going to use.
If every airport and every airline in the federal government all start using different technologies, we are just going to have confusion out there. But I think technology allows us the opportunity to enhance security, at the same time, improve customer service because if you've got that technology, there is no reason for long, long lines. We know who people are. They're self-identifying. And not only will security get better, customer service will get better.
KING: Many flight attendants feel that they are sort of in an unfair spot here. They are out front. They are not protected by a cockpit door. They are easily taken as a hostage situation -- true?
CARTY: I think they are concerned, legitimately concerned. You know, in many cases at our company, and I've sat with an awful lot of our flight attendants the other evening after 587, flight attendants who lost their best friends and now they have to go off and get on an airplane themselves.
I have been enormously impressed with our flight attendants' strength willingness to do that. They have been absolutely unbelievable.
KING: But they are at high risk?
CARTY: But, nonetheless, their risk is going to depend as passengers' risk does on how good a job we do at security before people get on the airplane. And I think -- I think our flight attendants have a perfect right to expect we do as the secretary said, a zero tolerance kind of exercise, and that we can assure them of that. We need to do a better job of telling our flight attendants what is being done so they will have that comfort.
KING: What's American's position if the pilot or the flight attendant doesn't like -- is queasy about the way someone looks? Can they ask them off the plane?
CARTY: They can. The captain has the authority. You know, a captain has the authority under the guidelines...
KING: Doesn't have to have a reason?
CARTY: He does not have to have a reason.
Now the thing that we have been urging our pilots and flight attendants to do is to rely on the security we have put in place. And for the most part, that is what's happened.
KING: We are going to include calls for Donald Carty and we'll start with Houston, Texas -- hello.
CALLER: Hello, Mr. McCarty (sic)...
KING: Yes, speak up.
CALLER: OK, can you hear me now?
KING: Yes, sure.
American passengers are feeling more comfortable with the baggage and passenger security process. But as a frequent business traveler, I'm wondering what is American Airlines, as well as the rest of the airline industry, doing as far as background checks on new employees that service the planes, that work on the planes, as well as employees that are currently employed with you.
CARTY: The airlines are doing a thorough job of background checks on new employees. We are required to by the FAA and all the airlines are doing it.
I think it is true, however, that there is going to be a new requirement at all the airlines to go back and revisit the security checks, and even longstanding employees. And that is something that will be more ongoing in the next little while.
KING: Because that is a good point, isn't it?
CARTY: It is an absolutely good point. And it -- if the bill that was signed today, the Congress made it very clear that they had high expectations for security checking of this new security force the federal government is hiring. And they made it very clear during the discussion that they expect that same kind of careful scrutiny of employees not only of the airlines, but of all of the other people around the airport that service the airlines, the caterers and so on.
KING: Anything about this bill, Don, you don't like?
CARTY: I think the hardest part of this new bill is how to manage the new provisions that relate to baggage. The Congress has ordered that within a year, we will have devices in place at every airport to screen all baggage. Logistically, whether Norm and his team can get that done, given what we know about the manufacturers and availability of equipment, I'm got 100 percent convinced, but this country is amazing.
When we decide to do something, we make the goal very clear, people go and do it. And I'm confident that Norm and the FAA and the new security people, in conjunction with the airlines will get done.
KING: It is going to be some job for this new...
CARTY: It is going to be a very difficult job.
KING: What kind of person should they pick?
CARTY: Someone with supernatural powers! It is a tough, tough job, and all of us in the industry owe this person, whoever he is, a lot of support and help to get the job done.
KING: We will take a break and be back with some more moments with Don Carty and take some more phone calls, as well. Every night, you know, we try to close with a musical number of an uplifting nature. Michael Crawford will provide that for us tonight from New York. Don't go away.
KING: Fulton, Indiana, we take another call for Don Carty, hello.
CALLER: Hello, my question is once business picks up, will the employees laid off from the September 11 attack, get their jobs back?
KING: Are you one of those, ma'am?
CALLER: No, I am not.
CARTY: I'm glad you asked the question. Our primary objective is to get this airline rebuilt so we can do exactly that, recall all of the people that we had to furlough.
KING: How many were laid off?
CARTY: In the end, we were able to mitigate a lot of the 20,000, and it is down to -- about the 12 or 13,000 range. And what we are trying to do is very hard, is remember that those people, too, are part of the American airlines family. We are trying to stay linked to them, we have created a Web site for them. We are helping them with interim careers while they wait to be recalled.
KING: Do you expect to them to be recalled?
CARTY: Absolutely. We will get them all back to work.
KING: Executives take pay cuts?
CARTY: Execives took paycuts. I took a relatively severe one. I am not being paid right now.
KING: Not being paid?
CARTY: I felt it was the right thing to do. Just to give some sense of the magnitude of this event on our people: 36 dead, 12 or 13,000 laid off, hundreds of full time workers now relegated to part- time, hundreds and thousands of people that used to earn overtime not making overtime. Pilots whose duty lines have been reduced have taken, effectively, a 7 and 8 percent cut in take-home pay. So thousands and thousands of our employees adversely affected.
KING: How do you get people flying again? How do you advertize? What do you say in your ads?
CARTY: Well, I think we are very much about what George Bush talks about. And that is, get America back to work. During this vacation period, in this period of holidays, we are out there encouraging people to be with friends and family in our ads, and I think that is an important thing for all of us in this country. Certainly it is what I'm doing, I'm taking my 2-year-old and 7-year- old and my wife and we are going to visit her parents.
KING: On American.
CARTY: On American. You bet.
KING: Lake Worth, Florida, hello.
CALLER: Hi, good evening.
CALLER: Hello, Mr. Carty. I'm an international traveler from here in the South Florida area, and my question is, what type of security measures are being taken in all the hubs that you have internationally? I think our concerns are more, I feel secure here traveling more in the United States than I do getting on plane, and going overseas. And I would like to know what type of security is being taken.
CARTY: Well, it is a good question. Historically, even before September 10, our level of security on international flights was even higher than it was on domestic flights.
Today, we pulled the domestic flights up and beyond the original level as international flights. But our international flights have always been subject to special scrutiny. In terms of security at the foreign destination, it depends on what destination it is. Some we have identified as more threatening environments than others, and at those we have large contingents of security agents on hand, and we do an awful lot with the local law enforcement agencies to keep our intelligence up.
KING: You can't be El Al, right, because El Al doesn't have 400 airplanes. So, they can do things with a limited fleet, right? CARTY: That is the big challenge for these big U.S. carriers. We have close to 900 airplanes, so we are connecting them at hubs, 50 airplanes connecting to 50 other airplanes. In order to offer a transportation system the American public in an environment in the United States where it really is only form of inter-city transportation, so the challenges of managing security in that environment are much more difficult than they are in single flights from point A, to point B.
But, even then, the enhancements we have already put in place, plus the enhancements that are prescribed by the bill that the president signed today, is going to make American flights, and I don't just mean American Airlines, but all-American carriers flights, as secure as flights almost anywhere in world.
KING: Toronto, Canada, hello.
CALLER: Hi, good evening. My question is to Mr. Carty. There has been a lot of budget cuts in the airline industry, especially since 9-11, and how will these cuts affect the repairs and maintenance of planes?
KING: Fair question.
CARTY: It is, but I can assure you, on behalf of American, and I believe, by the way, this is true of all our competitors in the U.S., that safety is paramount.
Our industry's very reputation and existence is dependent on us doing the best possible job we can on the issues of safety. And I think, I think the proof is in the pudding. If you look at the last 50 years of aviation, it just gets safer and safer, and safer. Whenever we have an incident, we learn something from it and we change something as a consequence.
KING: Do you agree, Don, we only have a couple minutes, that from now on, ad infinitum, that if a train derails tomorrow, or a plane goes down, God forbid, or a ship, they are going to think terror? Terror will be foremost in people's minds?
CARTY: Larry, I think something did fundamentally change on September 11 and that is our awareness of, and our concern for these issues. And I think it is always on people's minds now.
KING: What worries you the most, another crash? Do you live with this? In other words, as an airline chief, when you have had this kind of thing happen to you in the space of a short time, do you jump at every phone?
CARTY: No. My biggest concern now is what we were talking about a minute ago. I believe that we have, and are in the continuing process of making security so rigorous that airplanes are the safest place in America.
I believe that the technical proficiency of the industry just keeps getting better and better and aviation gets safer and safer. So what I'm worried about in the short term is getting this airline back to the vigor it had before September 10, getting those employees recalled, and going about our business.
KING: You mentioned vigor, what's moral like?
CARTY: It is very interesting, and to some degree we are a microcosm of the United States. This has been very hard on our people. I described some of the adverse effects on people across the company. But like America, there has been a coming together. Our employees, they may not always agree with everything I think or say, they love American Airlines. They are committed to this company in an unbelievable way, and they are showing it out there right now.
I think our service is better than it has ever been and it has always been good. Our mechanics, our pilots, our flight attendants, are running -- running, doing their jobs in as a professional a way as I have ever seen them do.
KING: You are Canadian, right?
CARTY: I am Canadian.
KING: Still a Canadian citizen.
KING: I am feeling more and more American in the last couple of...
KING: Are you an American citizen?
CARTY: I am an American citizen.
KING: So, an American citizen runs American Airlines?
KING: Don, thank you. We hope this will be the first of many visits, none of them under unfortunate circumstances.
CARTY: Thank you, Larry. I appreciate that.
KING: Our guest has been Donald Carty, chairman, president, chief executive officer of American Airlines.
Tomorrow night, Bob Dole will be with us and Scott O'Grady. And we will talk about the perils of war.
We are going to bring you a great singer in just a moment. Michael Crawford will join us, the phantom of the opera. Don't go away.
KING: We try to end every program on an upbeat note in this time of stress. Michael Crawford, the brilliant actor and singer -- there he is -- joins us from New York. He has strong feelings for New York City. Of course, for years appearing there in "Phantom of the Opera." He's got a new album out called "The Disney Album", a collection of songs from Disney films. And one of those songs is going to provide our close tonight. "Your Heart Will Lead You Home," that was from "Tigger", right, Michael?
MICHAEL CRAWFORD, MUSICIAN: Yes, that is right, Larry.
KING: And this song appropriate for this occasion, why?
CRAWFORD: I don't know, it sort of -- it -- I think it brings people together. It is a thing of -- about friendship and love and thinking about our loved ones who are maybe many thousands of miles away at the moment for our country.
KING: Let's hear it. Michael Crawford -- the great Michael Crawford -- and "Your Heart Will Lead you Home."
(MUSIC, MICHAEL CRAWFORD, "YOUR HEART WILL LEAD YOU HOME")
KING: Tomorrow night on LARRY KING LIVE, the perils of war with many veterans of war including Senator Bob Dole and Scott O'Grady.
"NEWSNIGHT" with my man, Aaron Brown, is next. And they've got a special guest on that show, Jerry Spence, an old friend of this show who always has his own travails through the world of law and order.
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