Gene Romano wasn't flying to Baghdad or Tel Aviv or even Paris.
He would land in Bombay, where an entire Arabian Sea would stretch between him and the Persian Gulf. Yet in the end, even Bombay seemed too close to war."At first I thought it'd be no problem," said Romano, 25, a production manager at All That Glitters, a San Francisco store specializing in Indian scarves and clothing. "But then I do hold an American passport. After re-evaluating everything, it just seemed like `Why take any risks?"'
Romano is just one of many skittish travelers who have canceled air travel all over the world since war broke out. Fear of terrorist attacks and war itself has caused travelers to Europe, the Middle East, the Far East and even Los Angeles to elect to stay home.
"Our business is probably down about 90 percent," said Tom Rizzo, manager of Telegraph Travel in San Francisco.
"Every European trip that was booked, whether in the planning stages or already ticketed, has been canceled. People are definitely afraid to go to Europe. Even travel to the Orient or India has been canceled because people are nervous about American carriers," he said.
During a time of year when the tourist business usually surges, Rizzo said agents in his office are twiddling their thumbs and answering cancellation calls.
Airlines also are reporting a drop in international travel.
"Our domestic travel has held up very nicely since the war began, we're carrying the same number of people," said Joe Hopkins, spokesman for United Airlines. But "internationally, there's been a bit of a fall-off. People are not saying they don't want to take the trip, but they do want to postpone it."
So United Airlines is offering travelers with non-refundable tickets who had planned to leave in the next 30 days a chance to postpone their trips for up to one year.
And travelers who are in the middle of journeys and want to come home can do so without worrying about any restrictions on their length of stay, Hopkins said.
United has tried to reassure travelers by increasing security at airports, but the airport crackdown just seems to have frightened some people away.
"People are afraid of the airports," said Phil Marks, owner of Global Travel, Too, of San Francisco, where business since the Iraq war began is "basically falling apart."
"People are getting really paranoid," he added.
To avoid airports, some business travelers who would never have thought of trains are turning to Amtrak, agents say. Rizzo said one of his clients, a man who ordinarily would never think of traveling by rail, called asking for a train schedule to Los Angeles.
When Americans do begin to think about travel again, it's likely they'll pick safe spots like Canada or Hawaii, Rizzo said. His advice, if anyone wants it, is that clients should not travel to Europe now.
"I personally would not go to Europe at this time, and that's what I'd advise my clients who are on the fence," he said. "I couldn't live with myself if I pushed them into it."