US issues worldwide travel alert, UK warns against travel to Yemen

The US has issued a worldwide travel alert over an unspecified al-Qaeda threat, while the UK authorities have specifically advised against all travel to Yemen.

In its statement, the US state department said that the potential for an attack was particularly strong in the Middle East and North Africa. The travel alert, which advises US citizens to be vigilant, expires on August 31.

The travel alert comes soon after the US said that 19 of its embassies in North Africa and the Middle East, including in Israel, Egypt, Turkey, Algeria, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Bangladesh, would remain closed until Saturday. ‘Current information suggests al-Qa’ida and affiliated organisations continue to plan terrorist attacks both in the region and beyond, and that they may focus efforts to conduct attacks in the period between now and the end of August,’ it said.

Meanwhile, the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) has advised against all travel to Yemen and has strongly urged British nationals to leave immediately.

The FCO said that the closure of the British embassy in the Yemeni capital, Sana’a, has been extended until the end of the Muslim festival of Eid (Ramadan) later this week. The mission was to reopen on Tuesday after a two-day closure over concerns a terrorist attack.

‘Due to continuing security concerns, the British embassy in Yemen will remain closed until the end of Eid,’ an FCO spokeswoman said.

Eid, which begins on Wednesday evening, marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, and UK officials had advised particular vigilance saying, ‘tensions could be heightened. There is a high threat from terrorism throughout Yemen and a very high threat of kidnap from armed tribes, criminals and terrorists.

‘If you don’t leave the country now while commercial carriers are still flying it is extremely unlikely that the British government will be able to evacuate you or provide consular assistance,’ the FCO advisory added.

Less than 23 per cent of all air passengers cite terrorism as a cause for concern

Terrorism is no longer the most worrying aspect of air travel according to a survey released by Travel Daily Media as part of its ‘2011 Travel Daily Aviation Safety Survey’

While less than 25 per cent of travel professionals cited terrorism as their major fear, the majority 54.2 per cent cited technical safety followed by 42.4 per cent who said they were more concerned by turbulence or adverse weather conditions.

A further 33.9 per cent cited pilot/crew proficiency.

Polling just 23.7 per cent, terrorism was the fourth largest source of concern.

On the subject of current airport security measures, exactly half said they believed these to be ‘about right’.

More than a third however, still believe that airport security is ‘too stringent’ (28.3 per cent or ‘much too stringent’ (8.3 per cent). Only 13.3 per cent thought that security at airports is ‘too lax’.

Continuing the theme of airport security, it is interesting to note that 48.3 per cent of respondents were in favour of full-body scanners, while 46.7 per cent supported biometric data collection. Interestingly, 20.0 per cent believe that racial profiling of passengers should be adopted. The most preferred method of airport security however, is behavioural profiling, which was selected by 56.7 per cent of respondents.

Overall, the majority (88.4 per cent) of respondents said they feel ‘safe’ or ‘very safe’ when travelling by air, and almost the same number (88.3 per cent) have never cancelled or postponed a flight due to safety concerns.

The respondents’ peace of mind was affected however, by the airline they were flying with. More than three quarters (76.3 per cent) said they would definitely reconsider using an airline if it had a poor safety record. A further 23.8 per cent said they may consider such an airline depending on price or flight times, while 5.1 per cent said they said no concerns of this nature.

Unsurprisingly, the major full-service carriers were selected among the most trusted airlines, with Singapore Airlines, Lufthansa, British Airways, Qantas and Emirates taking the top five positions.

Despite the fact that many of its airlines have recently come off the EU aviation blacklist, Indonesia clearly still has some way to go if it is to gain the trust of flyers. Indonesian carriers accounted for more than a fifth (21.3 per cent) of airlines respondents felt least safe flying with. Low-cost carriers were cited by 11.5 per cent of respondents.

Travel Daily Media Managing Director & Editor, Gary Marshall said it was heartening to know that, as the world marks the 10th anniversary of the terrible events of 9/11, that such pointless acts of terrorism are not affecting confidence in air travel.

“It is also interesting to note that most people now accept the increased safety measures at airports, and are embracing new ways of keeping our skies safe. While the aviation industry can always improve its safety record, the measures we are taking now will only serve to boost aviation security and consumer confidence, ” he said.

The Travel Daily Aviation Safety Survey was an online poll conducted throughout the month of August 2011, and gathered the views of 244 travel trade personnel from across the world.

The largest share of responses came from Southeast Asia (34.4 per cent), followed by Europe (24.6 per cent), the Middle East (13.1 per cent) and Australia/NZ (9.8 per cent).

Most respondents were experienced flyers, travelling by air more than 10 times per year (36.7 per cent).


Explosions in Mumbai

Foreign Secretary William Hague: “These were deplorable acts of terrorism. The UK stands firmly with India in the face of such atrocities.”

Speaking on Wednesday, the Foreign Secretary said:

“I send my deepest condolences to all those who have lost relatives or been injured in the bomb blasts in Mumbai.  These were deplorable acts of terrorism. The UK stands firmly with India in the face of such atrocities. We are committed to working with the Indian government and our allies and partners to combat the threat from terrorism in all its forms.

“A Foreign Office consular team is already in Mumbai to provide consular support to any British nationals who may have been caught up in these events, and the Foreign Office is in close contact with the Indian authorities”.

The explosionson Wednesday happened at the Zaveri Bazaar, the Opera House and Dadar.

Further information

Anyone concerned about family or friends who may have been caught up in the incident should call the FCO on +44 (0) 20 7008 1500.