Travel Industry Scurries In Wake Of Yet Another Attack

One of the top tourist destinations in the world, Nice sits on the French Riviera, just under 600 miles from Paris, which is still recovering from its own attack last November. French president François Hollande extended the country’s state of emergency, which had been in place since the Paris attack, for another three months.

“France is in tears… but it’s strong and will always be stronger than the fanatics who seek to attack it,” Hollande said.

Travel professionals and suppliers are dealing with the immediate fallout of the attack which grabbed headlines across the globe.

Tourico Holidays had two staff members and more than 100 clients in Nice during the attacks, EVP of global sales Lauren Volcheff Atlass told TMR, with 25 more scheduled to arrive today. While all are safe, the company has issued cancellation and change waivers to all its clients and guests scheduled for check-in in surrounding areas.

“Airlines will be flexible, so it’s important you change your flight immediately, but if you can afford the few days to allow the crowds at the airport to calm down, or take a train to another city near by to fly out of instead, it is highly recommended,” she said. “Tourico Holidays truly mourns these lost lives.”

In a letter to agents penned late last night, Ovation Vacations president Jack S. Ezon outlined—again—what agents should do in the wake of the attack.

Reaching out to all clients on the Cote d’Azur or anywhere in Europe, Ezon said the most important thing is to “reassure them that you are at their disposal and just sound concerned for them. Keep checking up on them, offering to help them in any way possible.”

We must lead through our words and our actions, reminding our clients that their travel is not simply for their own pleasure but contributes to the greater good of so many others and collectively us all.

He cautioned against specifically telling clients that any place is safe, noting that no one can “predict safety anywhere.”

Instead, “your job is to accurately paint the picture and put things into perspective. Nothing else,” he said.

In Nice, meanwhile, Travel Professional International vice president Tim Morgan posted on Facebook that the city is calm but “palpable shock and sadness” is apparent this morning.

“Nowhere is our travel advocacy more important,” he wrote. “We must lead through our words and our actions, reminding our clients that their travel is not simply for their own pleasure but contributes to the greater good of so many others and collectively us all.”

Passengers at Nice airport who had been evacuated after the attack were allowed back in the airport to pick up their bags on Thursday evening. Flights were landing and departing as usual only a few hours after the attack.

“Despite the dreadful events that occurred, access to the airport and air traffic won’t be disrupted,” the airport said in a statement.

Some European airlines are still giving travelers the opportunity to change or cancel flights in wake of the attack.

Easyjet and British Airways are allowing passengers scheduled to travel to and from Nice this weekend to cancel their flight or change their date or destination without penalty. “We’ll continue to be as flexible as possible to help our customers,” BA said.

In a statement to TMR, Cruise Lines International Assocation said its priority is to provide for the safety of passengers and crew at all times.

“Port and onshore facilities, infrastructure, and passenger security and services in destinations are strictly scrutinized.  In the event of any safety concerns, cruise ships have the flexibility to alter their itineraries as needed to avoid areas of higher risk,” it said.

Ferry and Eurostar service are still operating normally.

Agents can also let clients know that the French government has launched a free smartphone app to alert users about possible security incidents, including all major natural, technological and terrorist-related risks, in up to eight geographical areas. Called SAIP (Système d’alerte et d’information des populations), it is available in English and French.

U.S. Rejects Calls From Big Three, Won’t Freeze Open Skies

Gulf carriers Emirates, Ethiad and Qatar will be able to continue operations uninterrupted while the U.S. State Department will reach out to the governments of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates to informally discuss state subsidies later this summer.

In a statement on Monday, the three big U.S. carriers—in a lobbying group called Partnership for Open and Fair Skies—didn’t call the news a loss. Rather, the group said it appreciates “how seriously the U.S. government has taken the issue of massive subsidization of the Gulf carriers” and that “discussions between our governments are an important step forward.”

U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow called the decision an “unequivocal victory for the U.S. economy, U.S. workers and travelers all over the world.”

“The Big 3 airlines and their union allies asked for two things that would have dramatically harmed fliers and the economy—one, enter formal consultations to renegotiate specific Open Skies agreements; and two, freeze air service from those countries—and they were thankfully granted neither,” he wrote in a statement.

The agreements, which the U.S. started to sign with countries around the world in 1979, were designed to eliminate government interference in commercial airline routes, capacity and pricing.

Open Skies allows airlines to cross land borders and territorial waters without prior consent from the individual nations over which they fly. Today, the United States has agreements with more than 100 countries and more than 70% of international flights from the U.S. fly to countries under Open Skies.

But because Gulf carriers—most notably Emirates, Qatar and Etihad airlines—are receiving $42 billion in state subsidies, Delta, American and United have all petitioned the U.S. government to freeze routes to the U.A.E. and Qatar until they correct alleged violations of the agreements.

Air Canada also took a stand against the policy, saying it would oppose any more flights by Emirates Airlines and Etihad Airways to Toronto in November.

Gulf carriers responded that those airlines were mostly upset about losing their share in the market.

“We are concerned to see the Big Three seek to change the rules of the game as soon as they see U.S. consumers respond well to the services offered by a competitor,” said Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker last year.