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To fly or not to fly. That is the question.

There's no doubt that people are a little nervous about the safety of flying. In an Advertising Age Fax Poll conducted last week, 87% of respondents feel the public perceives air travel as more dangerous now, and 36% believe it definitely isn't as safe as a year ago.

But when it comes right down to it, people will continue to fly, especially for vacations. In fact, only 7% of those surveyed will avoid air travel on their next vacation. The vast majority could well be buying plane tickets in the next year. That's pretty encouraging news for the airline industry-especially for American Airlines, United Airlines and Delta Air Lines, which scored the highest ratings when it came to consumer confidence.

Commuter planes, though, appear to be in big trouble. Almost half-46%-of the respondents won't book travel on commuter flights.

One went as far as saying: "All airlines are busi- nesses; they place money and profit before safety."

To solve these negative public relations problems, our marketing-savvy respondents came up with some real professional solutions, such as "Use an emotional appeal (sprinkled with some facts on safety) that focuses on the joy that air flight has brought to people's lives." Another suggestion: Let consumers listen to real mechanics saying "We know what we're doing and we won't let this plane leave if it isn't airworthy."

Many warned airlines "not to overreact like USAir is doing because they really are going to make us afraid if they continue to talk about it."

But one respondent insisted that airlines "stop trying to fool people, this ain't marketing ... they're flying death traps and we've always known it."

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