ATLANTA (Reuters) - Major U.S. airlines said their flights and schedules have been unaffected by a State Department alert on Sunday that warned American tourists of the potential for attacks by al-Qaeda and other groups in Europe.
While many U.S. travel agents said they were seeing business as usual for European travel, one agency noted a couple of cancellations, suggesting that the State Department alert was prompting caution among some travelers.
An American Airlines spokesman said on Monday the carrier had not canceled any flights after the travel advisory, which said public transportation systems and other tourism-related facilities could be targets.
American typically operates 40 round-trip daily flights between the United States and Europe at this time of year.
“Our flights in and out of Europe are continuing as scheduled, and at this time we don’t foresee any changes to our operation,” a spokeswoman for Delta Air Lines said.
Mike Weingart, president and managing director of Travel Leaders travel agency in Houston, said customers were seeking details about the alert. But he added, “It’s travel as usual to Europe.”
But Robert Walters, owner of the Worldwide Travel Associates agency in Avondale, Pennsylvania, said he had received two requests for cancellations after the alert, both from couples planning to go to Germany, France and Britain. In both cases, the couples lost money as a result of the cancellations, he said.
“Do I expect a lot more cancellations? That’s hard to say,” Walters said.
Walters added that as the height of vacation travel tends to occur from May to September, the impact in terms of cancellations would have been worse had the travel alert been issued a month ago. He said he wasn’t advising customers to postpone their trips.
The U.S. alert urged travelers to take precautions. The threat that prompted the State Department’s alert was outlined last week in media reports, which said militants were plotting coordinated attacks on European cities.
United Airlines, which has about 30 daily flights to Europe, on Monday said its schedule was normal.
Kevin Mitchell, chairman of the Business Travel Coalition advocacy group, said that while leisure travelers may put their travel on hold and wait for more information, he was not expecting significant business travel cancellations because of the alert.
“You’re always going to have a small percentage of business travelers who, upon hearing anything, might get skittish,” Mitchell said. “But this kind of travel is nondiscretionary and unless there are specific countries and specific threats, I don’t think you’re going to see much in the way of changed travel plans.”
U.S. airline shares finished broadly lower on Monday, with the Arca airline index off 2 percent. Raymond James downgraded shares of Delta Air Lines, citing potential competitive challenges.
Reporting by Karen Jacobs, additional reporting by Kyle Peterson in Chicago; Editing by Steve Orlofsky