Kiwis keep flying despite terror alerts

By Owen Hembry

Warnings of terror attacks in Europe are not affecting bookings, say airlines.

Shares in United States airlines fell on Monday after the Obama Administration issued a terrorism alert for travel in Europe - although jet-fuel prices and a downturn in the stockmarket have been picked as the more likely reasons.

Japan and Sweden joined the US and Britain in warning about travel in Europe, with the British Foreign Office warning of a high terror threat in France and Germany,

Chris Lethbridge, Emirates manager for New Zealand and the Pacific Islands, said there was no evidence of any cancellations here. Emirates flies to 25 European destinations.

"Even when the London bus bombings occurred in 2008 ... we had no cancellations," Lethbridge said.

"These days the public are so well informed through the media that they feel as though they can ... assess their risk and decide whether they go."

If there were incidents, then these days there were not wholesale cancellations but possibly some tweaking of itineraries, "but people do generally still tend to travel", he said.

Amid increased security in Paris, 61 soldiers from an alpine regiment were deployed at the weekend at two sites - Notre Dame Cathedral and the Sacre-Coeur Basilica.

Officials said France was facing its highest terror alert level in years, pointing to threats by al Qaeda's North African branch.

The public concerns intensified last week after a Pakistani intelligence official said eight Germans and two British brothers were at the heart of an al Qaeda-linked terror plot against European cities.

A spokesman for Qantas, which has direct flights to London and Frankfurt, with a code-share into Paris, said he did not think there had been any impact on bookings at this stage from the warnings.

"One of the major factors for us as an Australian airline is that the Australian Government hasn't yet changed its guidance for those destinations," he said.

A spokesman for Air New Zealand said there was no current change to bookings for the airline's British-bound flights.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade's safetravel.govt.nz website lists France, Britain, Italy, Greece and Spain among European destinations classified as having some risk - defined as a heightened but still generalised threat of terrorism.

There was an increased global risk of terrorism and New Zealanders were reminded of the need for vigilance, the website said.

"Although New Zealand travellers are unlikely to be targeted deliberately, they are usually indistinguishable from any 'Western' tourist, and frequent places where other Western tourists are found," the website said. "This puts New Zealanders at the same risk as others."

Shares in NZX-listed Air New Zealand closed steady yesterday at $1.29, while ASX-listed Qantas closed down 1c at A$2.80.

- ADDITIONAL REPORTING: AP

- NZ Herald

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