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.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points


CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 3X points on dining and 2x points on travel, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Enjoy benefits such as a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x on dining and 2x on all other travel purchases, plus more.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
Regular APR
16.24% - 23.24% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit

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.