After President Donald Trump announced a travel ban from most of Europe to the United States beginning at the end of this week, confusion ensued about what the measure will mean US carriers and their passengers.
The full impact of the ban, aimed at preventing spread of Corona-virus, remains far from clear. But the move seems certain to upend, if not outright freeze, air travel between the USA and continental Europe, a market with some 560 flights daily.
US President Donald Trump said on 11 March in an Oval Office address that his government will halt all passenger travel and cargo transport from Europe for 30 days, beginning on 13 March.
After consulting with his top government health professionals, Trump has decided to take several strong but necessary precautions to protect the health and well being of all Americans.
The ban applies only to foreign nationals who have been in certain European countries encompassing the Schengen agreement for 14 days before their scheduled arrival in the USA, he says. The ban does not apply to US citizens, permanent residents or immediate relatives of citizens.
All Caribbean destinations from and to Europe should also consider halting their travelers immediately, especially tourism forms spreading issues.
The Corona-virus is a AIDS type of dormant infection disease, that cannot just be stopped by checking misinformed tourists for rising body temperatures at the gates of arrival.
However, the United Kingdom is exempt from the blanket US travel ban. That means a traveler from Europe could theoretically fly from the continent to London and then embark on a second flight from London to the United States with no restrictions.
That passenger could also fly via Canada, which has not imposed any similar travel restrictions. Also the travel ban could be bypassed by flying to the Caribbean with KLM or BA in order to connect with American Airlines for the final US destination. In a further clarification, the administration said cargo flights will not be affected.
During his address, Trump added the USA is closely monitoring the virus situation in South Korea, which has been hit particularly hard, and Japan.
The Europe-USA travel market is among the top air travel markets globally. That equates to nearly 17,000 flights and 4.8 million seats in the 30-day period.
Nearly 40 airlines were scheduled to operate a combined roughly 560 passenger flights daily, carrying some 160,000 seats, in both directions between the USA and continental Europe in the 30 days starting 13 March.
European countries with the greatest number of US flights include Germany, France and the Netherlands. Other countries with notable capacity to the USA include Spain, Switzerland, Italy, Portugal and Turkey.
American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines will be the most-impacted US carriers. Combined, they operate more than 200 daily flights from the USA to Europe.
European carriers most affected stand to be Lufthansa, with about 60 daily US flights, and Air France, with an average of 37. Aer Lingus, KLM, Swiss and dozens of others operate Europe-USA routes.
The airline industry has braced to take a large financial hit since numerous companies halted corporate travel in recent days. Meetings and conventions have been cancelled and leisure travelers are reconsidering plans.
In the past week, all major US airlines began suspending service to some European cities, including Milan, Rome, Barcelona, Madrid and Paris.
United and American said on Tuesday they expect significant declines in revenue in the coming months as demand has fallen sharply since the virus spread globally.
Many airlines and cruise companies have also relaxed change fees, allowing passengers additional flexibility in the coming weeks.
However, KLM wants to double its flights to the Caribbean for the upcoming weeks, in order to bypass the US travel from Europe and reroute passengers with American Airlines, making Trumps measures outdated and useless.
The result of this contradicted and counter productive policy is that the spread of the Corona-virus will extend to through the Caribbean, killing many people along the way and in the process. Still maybe the local government could shut down its airspace.
ABC Flash Point News 2020.