As the clocks near midnight Friday, America's friendly skies will become America's empty skies. Fear is certainly a factor, despite yet one more assurance today from the Transportation Secretary.
Traditionally, New Year's Eve is not a heavy travel time, but demand is lower than ever this year. Airlines have cancelled on average 20 percent of their flights. "To fly a flight across country and only have a handful of people is not good economic sense, but it also takes employees away from their families," says Carol Hallett of the Air Transport Association
American Airlines will have only one plane in the air at midnight, with one notable passenger: Jane Garvey, the head of the FAA., along with a group of reporters. "When the air space system makes the transition to the new year, I'll be at 30 thousand feet," she says.
All told, only 45 jets will be flying over the U.S. at midnight Friday, even though the airline industry spent over a billion dollars testing systems here and abroad.
All may be well in the air, but major U.S. cities aren't taking any chances underground. Rapid transit systems in Boston, San Francisco, Philadelphia and Chicago will stop all trains a few minutes before midnight. And in Washington, they'll open all the doors.
Amtrak will have 49 trains operating during the turnover, but at midnight all trains will be held in stations just in case.
"You're going to see less traveling," says Jack Revel, a travel agent. "Anybody, pretty much everybody that's going is gone or is going to leave today."
The fact is, most Americans will count down the millennium in the one place they can count on: home.