Trump travel ban: What does it mean for travellers between the US and Europe?

New advisory means foreign nationals from Schengen countries can’t enter US

Helen Coffey
Thursday 12 March 2020 12:24 GMT
Coronavirus: Trump suspends Europe-US travel

A new travel advisory issued by President Trump on Wednesday night has banned entry to the US for foreign nationals who have visited European countries in the last two weeks.

The ban, which is aimed at quelling the spread of coronavirus in the States, applies to those who have been to countries within the Schengen Area, but not to the UK and Ireland.

Legal permanent US residents and the immediate family members of US citizens will still be permitted entry back into the States.

Although information is scant about how the ban will be implemented in practical terms, here’s everything we know so far about what it means for travellers.

What does the travel advisory say?

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad F. Wolf said in a statement: “Today President Donald J. Trump signed a Presidential Proclamation, which suspends the entry of most foreign nationals who have been in certain European countries at any point during the 14 days prior to their scheduled arrival to the United States.”

Which countries does the ban apply to?

The Schengen area countries: 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 UK and Ireland are exempt. As are other European countries that are not in the Schengen area, including Cyprus, Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania.

How long will the ban last?

At the moment, the advisory is in place for 30 days, starting from midnight on 13 March (4am on 14 March in the UK).

Will the travel ban work in practice?

Those travelling in Europe often move freely between Schengen countries and non-Schengen ones – such as the UK. At present, the President has not made it clear how the US might deal with those flying in from the UK who have potentially visited banned EU countries. It is equally unclear whether flights from mainland Europe to the US will be officially grounded. The White House is expected to issue additional guidance in the coming days.

Can Americans still travel to Europe?

There has been no mention of banning US citizens travelling to Europe, although the number of flights to the Continent has been slashed in recent weeks. However, the US has issued an advisory to all citizens to reconsider going abroad at all.

What about Europeans with trips booked to the US?

It seems these will no longer be going ahead for travellers from Schengen countries. Many airlines have already been offering passengers the chance to cancel or rebook flights free of charge, so some travellers may be able to postpone their trips.

Most airlines have not yet issued formal statements about the new US advisory. According to a response from Lufthansa, customers whose flights get cancelled because of the ban “may request a full refund of the unused flight segments,” with “calculation of the refund amount done by its refunds department”.

For those with a package holiday booked to the US, they should be entitled to a full refund from their holiday provider under the Package Travel Directive (2015/2302/EU). For those who booked independently, with separate flights and hotels, claiming through travel insurance is the most likely option.

What will airlines do?

Most US airlines have already had to significantly reduce their schedules amid coronavirus fears – this new advisory will impact them even more heavily. United Airlines, for example, had already said it would cut the number of international flights in April by 20 per cent; that number will surely only go up.

Delta is likely to be hardest hit, as it has the highest number of non-UK/Ireland transatlantic flights, according to Forbes.

IAG, the airline group that includes British Airways, Iberia and Aer Lingus, has the highest number of US-Europe flights a day. Although the majority of these go to or from the UK, which isn’t included in the ban, it is still likely to be adversely affected by the ban, as Aer Lingus and British Airways carry substantial numbers of passengers from their home hubs in Ireland and London to the rest of Europe.

What happens to Americans stuck in Europe?

US permanent residents, immediate family members of US citizens and others who are exempt (eg cabin crew) will still be allowed back into the US after the ban is in place, although they will be re-directed through certain US airports, presumably for extra screening and testing for Covid-19 symptoms. The main issue might be a lack of capacity due to the large-scale culling of Transatlantic flights.

I'm flying to the US - anything else I should be aware of?

The TSA is telling travellers not to place certain personal items in the plastic trays at security to help avoid the spread of the virus.

“Bins in use in the security checkpoint are like any other piece of public property and should be treated as such,” the agency said in a statement. ”With hundreds of travellers coming through an airport security checkpoint each hour, the bins are a common use item.

“Do not place personal items such as wallets, keys or phone in a bin. Instead, secure them in carry-on property to be screened through the X-ray system.”

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