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Old July 12th, 2005, 04:30 PM   #1
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Bomb Attacks May Threaten Lucrative Fares To Europe

Bomb Attacks May Threaten Lucrative Fares To Europe
Johanna Jainchill contributed reporting from Newark for this article.
8 July 2005
The New York Times

After Jayne Levinson, a teacher from Marlboro, N.J., heard about the London bombings yesterday, she said she was ''very scared.'' Despite pleas from her daughter, Elissa, 14, to cancel their British Airways flight to London from Newark, she decided to go.

''I feel that it's safer now than before,'' Ms. Levinson, 42, said while awaiting the flight at Newark Liberty International Airport. ''It's not our time to go, and God is on our side. And we have to think positive.'' The airline industry is trying to think positive, too. But yesterday, that did not seem easy.

European routes are among the airlines' most profitable. And even though London's airports remained open throughout the attacks, they could have a deeper impact -- at least in the near term -- on the airline industry than the train bombings last year in Madrid did.

London's airports feed more traffic to the rest of Europe than those in Madrid do. Industry officials and analysts worried that high-paying business travelers would postpone trips, afraid that what happened in the British capital was only the beginning of a wave of terrorist attacks.

''Carriers like American, Continental and Northwest, which have a lot of flights going to London, are going to take a hit,'' said Michael Boyd, president of the Boyd Group Inc., an aviation consulting business. He estimated that bookings to London by the nation's airlines would drop 3 percent to 5 percent immediately after of the attacks. ''It will be a dent in the fender, but not a big enough dent to send them into bankruptcy,'' he said.

Although the setback is unlikely to do permanent damage to an improving airline industry, company executives want to make sure that the dent to their business is small and short-lived. So, a number of airlines flying to Europe loosened their cancellation policies yesterday to accommodate trans-Atlantic travelers with second thoughts. Airlines waived some cancellation fees and issued vouchers for future flights to passengers who wanted to stay home. Although few cancellations were reported, analysts expect more.

''It's unfortunate for the airlines, because the transatlantic has been one of the bright spots in their business, and we're right in the middle of the principal travel season for flying to Europe,'' said Philip Baggaley, a senior airline credit analyst at Standard & Poor's.

Andrew Frank, a communications consultant from New York, was scheduled to fly to Moscow on British Airways yesterday afternoon, with a stopover in London. ''I heard that there might be some disruptions in London, and I didn't want to take a chance,'' he said. So he paid $2,000 for a direct flight on Delta Air Lines.

Business travelers appeared to be reacting to the bombings with greater concern than vacationers. Bruce McIndoe, the chief executive of iJET Intelligent Risk Systems, a risk management business in Annapolis, Md., said there were good reasons for the corporate worries. ''A lot of our clients are telling their employees to lay off London, at least through the end of the week,'' he said. ''They don't want to add to the situation, and they are afraid that there may be more incidents in the near future.''

Leisure travelers seemed to be sticking to their plans. ''I've had one call today from someone who was leaving to go to London, and she wanted to know if the airport in London was open,'' said Cheryl C. Hudak, president of Travel Dimensions Inc., a leisure travel agency in Boardman, Ohio. After she told her client that the airport was open, the woman decided to continue with her trip.

Some leisure travelers seemed downright defiant. Robert Burke, a technology consultant in Miami, is set to vacation in Ireland next month with his son and daughter. He said the bombings had the opposite of their intended effect. ''When I heard about what happened in London, I said to my son, 'Let's go to London to show our solidarity,''' he said.

Visiting London might not be such a bad idea, said Terry Riley, an independent security consultant. He said the city was likely to be one of the safest places in Europe for the rest of the summer. ''The police will be on their guard,'' he said. ''People will be on their guard.''

Indeed, some travelers with plans to visit Britain said they almost felt safer overseas than at home. Laura Davidson, who owns a public relations agency in New York, is planning to fly to Scotland next month. ''I'm not concerned about the airport, and I'm not concerned about terrorism in the U.K.,'' she said. ''You want to know what worries me? After the attack on London's mass transit system, I'm more worried about getting on the New York subway.''
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