Airline Bookings to Europe Starting to Rise
NEW YORK (AP) _ Airlines and travel agents, hurt by a sharp decline in vacations to Europe due to American fear of terrorism, say they are starting to see a turnaround because of aggressive security precautions and giveaways. But they say it’s too early to tell whether they can salvage the summer.
Major trans-Atlantic carriers reported this week that reservations have risen significantly compared with the period immediately after the bombing of a Trans World Airlines jet April 1 and the subsequent U.S. air attack on Libya, accused by Washington of sponsoring terrorism.
Travel agents also said that in the past few weeks, inquiries about trips to Europe have sharply increased.
″People who have been sitting on the fence have decided to go after all,″ said Juergen Krenzien, president of the Midwest branch of the American Society of Travel Agents and head of Paul Klein Travel Service in Chicago.
H. Wayne Berens, president of the New Jersey chain Revere Travel Inc. and a member of the Travel Security Advisory Council, an industry group formed in response to tourists’ fear of terrorism, said increased bookings in his offices range from 25 percent to 75 percent over a few weeks ago.
″I think in general terms, we are finding a renewed interest in Europe,″ Berens said. He expressed doubt that his business could recoup all canceled plans, but said ″we’ll have a pretty clear picture in July.″
Travel agents and airline officials attributed the change largely to more aggressive marketing tactics by carriers such as Pan American World Airways, TWA, British Airways and others. They also said fear of terrorism has receded because no incidents have been reported for several weeks.
″I think there was a timidness among the public in April and May,″ said James A. Arey, spokesman for Pan Am. He declined to give specific numbers on Pan Am’s bookings and would not speculate on whether the carrier can recover lost business, but said by early July ″we should have a good handle on how it’s going to go for the summer.″
Pan Am took one of the strongest stances against terrorists when it announced May 13 it would form an elite security force designed to foil hijackers and saboteurs.
British Airways followed a week later with its ″Go For It, America″ campaign, in which U.S. passengers to Britain fly free June 10 and will be eligible for prizes ranging from a Rolls-Royce to portfolios in stocks and bonds. On Thursday the airline said the campaign has been a ″smashing success.″
The only carrier to specify its increased trans-Atlantic bookings, British Airways said they rose from 5,087 in late April to 43,961 in late May.
TWA, historically the dominant North Atlantic carrier with about 18 percent of the traffic, announced an intensified security program on June 4 that includes a ban on curbside check-in, interrogation of all passengers and pre- flight inspections of cockpits, cabins and cargo bays.
″We’re already seeing the early signs of turnaround in the public’s attitude toward foreign travel, and as trans-Atlantic volume builds back toward normal levels, we want to reassure our customers they’re in safe hands,″ TWA President Richard D. Pearson said.
Russell Marchetta, spokesman for no-frills carrier People Express, said its bookings to Europe have strengthened for late summer and ″if you want to call it a rebound, I guess you can.″