Travelers Flee Egypt, Tour Operators Cancel Trips

The increasingly tense situation in Egypt has travelers scrambling to get home and others reconsidering plans to visit.

The U.S. Tour Operators Association says an informal poll showed only 35% of its members have canceled future trips to Egypt.

But Gate 1 Travel, a U.S.-based tour-booking company, which sends several thousand Americans to Egypt each year, canceled all scheduled Egypt tour departures through the end of February, the Associated Press reports.

Abercrombie & Kent, a luxury tour company that also sends thousands of Americans to Egypt each year, canceled departures through Feb. 1 and was working to assist clients already in the country.

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Winter is high season for travel in Egypt, travelers seeking to visit ancient sites and cruise the Nile when temperatures aren't excruciatingly hot, as they can be in summer.

Cruise companies including Italian lines MSC Cruises and Costa have canceled visits to the port of Alexandria this week. Norwegian Cruise Line sent its Norwegian Jade to Istanbul over the weekend instead of Alexandria.

Avalon Waterways was among Nile river cruise operators to cancel trips and offer guests refunds or a chance to rebook.

Airlines including Delta, which flies to Cairo from New York's JFK airport, canceled flights.

The U.S. State Department on Friday issued a warning urging Americans to defer non-essential travel to Egypt.

The travel alert also urged U.S. citizens already in the country to stay inside their hotels or homes in the wake of the large government protests in the streets of Cairo. The U.S. Embassy in Cairo was organizing flights home.

Cairo's airport was reportedly a scene of chaos today as thousands of tourists tried to flee the unrest, with reports of shouting matches and even fist fights.

"It's an absolute zoo, what a mess," said Justine Khanzadian, 23, a graduate student from the American University of Cairo who was among those waiting at the airport for hours to leave Egypt.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Janice Jacobs said it will take several flights over the coming days to fly out the thousands of Americans who want to leave Egypt. The flights are expected to take Americans to Cyprus and cities in Europe.

The USTOA is advising travelers who have booked a future trip to Egypt trip "to check with their individual company, tour operator, or travel agent regarding future travel arrangements, as policies on rebooking are up to each individual company, and vary by company."

Most USTOA members are allowing travelers to reschedule trips to future dates without penalty, issuing credits for future travel, allowing travelers to switch to alternative destinations and issuing refunds, the group says.

Travel assistance company On Call International said it had evacuated 150 customers including students and tour groups.

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