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Air France braces for fallout from Paris attacks

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Air France has experienced some reduction in traffic following last Friday's Paris attacks, but it is too early to say how severe the impact on bookings will be, a company source said on Thursday.

[PARIS] Air France has experienced some reduction in traffic following last Friday's Paris attacks, but it is too early to say how severe the impact on bookings will be, a company source said on Thursday.

"Clearly this type of absolutely tragic event has consequences, (but) it is too early to say what the impact is,"the source said, adding, "We will have to adapt." Cancellations of bookings have exceeded new reservations, the chief executive of Franco-Dutch parent Air France KLM SA, Alexandre de Juniac, told CNBC on Thursday.

The comments are the first sign of concern at France's national airline, which earlier this week said it had seen no immediate impact on plane occupancy over the weekend and that it was maintaining its schedules.

The airline is due to publish November traffic data on Dec 8.

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Shares in Air France-KLM and French hotels group Accor , which fell on Monday because of worries over a drop in bookings, had recovered about half their losses by Thursday.

Air France-KLM was up almost 3 per cent and Accor up more than 1 per cent at the close.

Last week's attacks, which killed at least 129 people, sent shudders through the tourism industry as Paris is one of the world's most visited cities.

Travel agents had higher call volumes and questions from corporate clients about security protocols after the attacks, said Joanna Macleod, American Express Global Business Travel's senior vice president for global service delivery.

Preliminary data showed a "minor uptick" in cancellations, she said in an emailed statement to Reuters.

But by Thursday, restaurants in the main commercial district of Paris that had emptied or closed following the attacks were full of lunchtime diners, and travellers said the rail and air routes into Paris looked reasonably busy.

Some other airlines acknowledged a drop in traffic as they allowed passengers to cancel tickets, but they were reluctant to speculate on how severely the attacks would damage an industry which has a record of absorbing short-term shocks from attacks or disease.

Air Berlin said it had seen a definite drop in bookings linked to Friday's events.

Norwegian Air spokeswoman Charlotte Holmbergh Jacobsson said: "We don't have an exact figure but there was only a marginal increase in cancellations to Paris at the weekend." Traffic had returned to normal this week, she said.

Scandinavia's SAS said it had not been affected, while Ryanair, Europe's largest budget airline, said bookings, including to France, remained ahead of last year.

In Asia, some tour operators cancelled package trips and predicted a further slowdown in bookings. But in Paris, groups of Chinese tourists were still visible.

A spokesman for the US travel insurance division of German insurer Allianz said on Thursday it had received about 225 calls from US residents travelling to France, about 140 of which involved cancelling trips and filing claims.

REUTERS

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