US airlines scramble to respond to coronavirus-related travel ban to Europe

Mar 12, 2020

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Airlines were left scrambling Thursday morning after President Trump announced new restrictions on travel to the U.S. from certain E.U. countries.

The new policy was presented during an Oval Office address Wednesday night, and is set to go into effect at 11:59 p.m. ET on Friday. The president said the restrictions are meant to stem the spread of coronavirus in the U.S.

American, Delta and United — the three U.S.-based carriers that serve destinations in Europe — seem to have been caught off guard by the restrictions.

Sign up for the free daily TPG newsletter for more airline news.

“At this point, all I can say is that we will comply with the administration’s announcement,” United Airlines spokesperson Frank Benenati told CNN shortly after the news broke Wednesday night.

By Thursday morning, all three of the big U.S. carriers said they’d meet the directive, though none had immediately detailed any new changes to their European operations.

“We are in contact with the federal government to understand and comply with this directive,” Ross Feinstein, a spokesperson for American Airlines, said in a statement to TPG. “The health and safety of our customers and team members remains our highest priority.”

Broadly speaking, both American and United seem to be maintaining previously-announced waivers that cover affected travelers. Those policies generally allow passengers a free, one-time change to their itineraries for all new travel booked from early March through the end of the month, or for previously-booked reservations set to begin by April 30.

More: President Trump restricts travel from Europe for 30 days over coronavirus outbreak

Delta had announced a new policy for travelers to and from Europe by Thursday morning, allowing passengers scheduled to travel on all flights to or from Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom between Feb. 25 and May 31 to change their itinerary once for free by Dec. 31, so long as the new itinerary begins by that date.

What is the new travel policy?

It’s a multi-part restriction. The broadest strokes of the policy state that any foreign citizen who has visited a country in the Schengen Area of Europe (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland) in the last 14 days before their flight will be barred from entering the United States for 30 days once the restrictions go into effect on Friday.

More: Can I cancel or change my award ticket due to coronavirus travel waivers?

For U.S. citizens and some authorized travelers, including foreign citizens on official government business, certain visa holders and close family relatives of U.S. citizens, the broadest part of the new restrictions doesn’t apply. Those qualified travelers simply need to enter the U.S. through select airports, and should expect to undergo additional screening prior to entry.

The approved airports, according to American Airlines, are:

  • Atlanta: Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL)
  • Dallas-Fort Worth: Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)
  • Detroit: Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW)
  • Newark, New Jersey: Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR)
  • Honolulu: Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL)
  • New York City: John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)
  • Los Angeles: Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
  • Chicago: Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD)
  • Seattle: Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA)
  • San Francisco: San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
  • Washington, D.C.: Washington-Dulles International Airport (IAD)

More: Some airlines cut back on inflight service to combat coronavirus. Will those changes stick?

Featured photo by Bodo Marks/picture alliance via Getty Images.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Offer ends 11/10/2021.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 11/10/2021.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
$250
Balance Transfer Fee
N/A
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.