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The U.S. Ban on Travel Now Includes Europe, the U.K., and Ireland—What You Need to Know

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Passengers wait in front of the desk of Air France at the Roissy Charles de Gaulle airport, north of Paris, Thursday, March 12, 2020.

AP Photo by Thibault Camus

Passengers wait in front of the desk of Air France at the Roissy Charles de Gaulle airport, north of Paris, Thursday, March 12, 2020.

The temporary ban has been extended to the U.K. and Ireland, effective midnight March 16, but U.S. citizens and their families are exempt.

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Updated March 14, 2020, 2 p.m. ET. Starting at midnight EST on Monday, March 16, the ban on foreign nationals entering the U.S. will extend to the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland, as well as the 26 European countries prevously announced, Vice President Mike Pence said this weekend.

Travel has been suspended for 30 days from the respective start dates, but American citizens and legal residents may return home—“funnelled through specific airports and processed,” Pence said, per the BBC.

Original story, published March 12, 2o20. In an address to the nation on Wednesday regarding the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, or COVID-19, President Donald Trump stated that the United States will be “suspending all travel from Europe to the United States for the next 30 days.”

He added that the new rules will go into effect Friday at midnight.

European Union leaders on Thursday immediately lashed out at President Trump’s decision to restrict travel from Europe to the United States.

“The coronavirus is a global crisis, not limited to any continent, and it requires cooperation rather than unilateral action,” European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a joint statement.

They rejected Trump’s suggestion that Europe was not doing enough to contain its outbreak, insisting the EU “is taking strong action to limit the spread of the virus.”

According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control’s latest figures, more than 22,000 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed across Europe, and 943 people have died on the continent. On this side of the pond, there were 1,215 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 36 deaths in the United States at press time, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Despite the fact that President Trump stated that the government will be suspending all travel from Europe, the official proclamation released by the White House outlines some very important exceptions. Here’s what we’ve sussed out thus far.

U.S. citizens (and their families) are exempt

The ban does not apply to U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents nor to their family members (spouses, parents or legal guardians, siblings under the age of 21, and children).

Crew members who work on airplanes and ships, diplomats, and government officials are exempt as well.

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Only a few European countries are exempt from the travel ban

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The 30-day ban on travel now includes the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, but does not apply to European countries that aren't in the Schengen Area. These 26 countries are in Europe’s passport and visa-free Schengen zone: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. 

The end date is unclear

In his speech, President Trump said the ban would be for 30 days. In the official documentation, however, it states that the ban will remain in effect until it is terminated by the president, based on the recommendation of the Secretary of Health and Human Services—which means it could end sooner, at that 30-day mark, or be prolonged.

What we do know is that this is scheduled to go into effect at 11:59 p.m. EST on March 13, 2020, and will not apply to anyone aboard a flight that departed prior to that time.

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CDC-approved airports and self-quarantine

U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, and their family members who will be allowed to fly to the United States from Europe will be required to do so through one of 11 CDC-approved airports:

  •     Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport
  •     Dallas–Fort Worth International Airport
  •     Detroit Metropolitan Airport
  •     New Jersey’s Newark Liberty International Airport
  •     Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (Honolulu)
  •     New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport
  •     Los Angeles International Airport
  •     Chicago O’Hare International Airport
  •     Seattle-Tacoma International Airport
  •     San Francisco International Airport
  •     Washington-Dulles International Airport

There, they will undergo health screenings before being allowed to continue on with their journey. Travelers returning from Italy are being asked to stay home for a period of 14 days after their return. The CDC has not yet said whether the 14-day self-quarantine will apply to everyone who returns from Schengen countries.

How the airlines are responding

Following President Trump’s announcement, American Airlines released a statement that it was working to accommodate customers who are affected.

“American is committed to taking care of any affected customers by assisting them with rebooking options. Our team is proactively reaching out to customers who may be affected by these travel restrictions to ensure they are accommodated,” the airline stated.

American also said it will help reroute customers to one of the approved airports and that customers departing Schengen countries for the United States should arrive at the airport three hours before their flight to allow for additional screening measures.

Delta stated it will continue to make flight schedule adjustments as needed.

After Friday March 13, Delta said it will temporarily suspend the following flights: Cincinnati–Paris; Indianapolis–Paris; Orlando–Amsterdam; Portland–Amsterdam; Raleigh/Durham–Paris; Salt Lake City–Amsterdam; Salt Lake City–Paris.

“Delta will continue to take care of customers who may be affected by these travel restrictions. Delta is capping fares for travel to Europe,” the airline stated, amid reports of airfares skyrocketing as travelers tried to race onto flights from Europe to the United States.

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Delta has also waived change fees for customers traveling to, from, or through Europe and the United Kingdom through May 31.

United Airlines said it, too, has capped fares between the United States and Europe. The carrier said it will continue to fly its regular schedule from Europe to the United States through March 19.

“After that, we expect to fly daily to Zurich, Brussels, Paris, Amsterdam, Manchester and Edinburgh, maintain multiple flights to Frankfurt and Munich, and operate 18 daily flights to and from London, three to Dublin and less than daily service to Lisbon, all while continuing to monitor demand,” United said in a statement sent to AFAR.

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How travelers in Europe are reacting

The newly established travel ban threw Europeans with travel plans to the United States into a tailspin on Thursday.

Retired French teacher Jean-Michel Deaux had spent months planning the 2,200-mile trans-America road trip that has now evaporated. His flight to New Orleans had been booked for March 24.

“We’ve been preparing this trip for years,” Jean-Michel Deaux told the Associated Press. “It was going to be a pilgrimage.”

“My mood is pretty low,” said Matias Rietig, a student from Berlin whose plans to start a sought-after internship on March 31 at tech firm Cisco in California collapsed.

Paris lawyer Thomas Devred didn’t wait for Trump’s decree to cancel his trip to Boston planned for later this month. Mindful of the risk that, as a European, he might be “a possible spreader,” Devred said he decided that out of “respect for others and a civic duty” that he would not cross the Atlantic.

“I’ve been hysterical for two days, [I had] a complete panic attack about getting home,” said Helen Neumann from Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, who was flying to Boston on a direct flight from Rome on Thursday. “I was like, I’ve got to get out of here.”

Private jet brokers in Europe reported a surge in demand Thursday from wealthy Americans scrambling to get home.

For travelers who are trying to get additional information, the airlines are your best bet. If you are having issues getting through, try calling during less popular hours, early in the morning or later at night. And make sure to get to the airport early for those flying from Europe to the United States.

The Associated Press contributed reporting. This is a developing story. For up-to-date information on traveling during the coronavirus outbreak, visit the websites of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.

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