Airlines extend waivers, adjust schedules ahead of U.S. ban on travel from Europe

Nation/World
An airline staff member wears a protective mask while working at the Arturo Merino Benitez International Airport, in Santiago, on March 3, 2020.(Javier Torres/AFP via Getty Images)

An airline staff member wears a protective mask while working at the Arturo Merino Benitez International Airport, in Santiago, on March 3, 2020.(Javier Torres/AFP via Getty Images)

 With a ban on travel from much of Europe to the United States going into effect Friday, airlines are outlining waivers and policies for affected travelers.

US President Donald Trump on Wednesday announced a 30-day suspension of travel from 26 European countries to the United States in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The ban does not include the United Kingdom.

The travel ban, slated to begin on Friday, only applies to foreign nationals, not American citizens, their immediate family members and legal permanent residents.

American citizens and US permanent residents will be allowed back into the US during this 30-day period.

Returning travelers will be screened at US airports set up for enhanced health screening and asked to self-quarantine for 14 days, Vice President Mike Pence said on CNN’s New Day.

Travelers not scheduled to arrive in one of those airports will have to reroute for health screening, according to information on American Airlines’ website.

The 11 airports currently set up for screening are:

> John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), New York

> Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD), Illinois

> San Francisco International Airport (SFO), California

> Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), Washington

> Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL), Hawaii

> Los Angeles International Airport, (LAX), California

> Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), Georgia

> Washington-Dulles International Airport (IAD), Virginia

> Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR), New Jersey

> Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), Texas

> Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW), Michigan

Airline policies

The move had airlines scrambling to understand and adopt the measures.

United Airlines will waive change fees for any customer traveling domestically and internationally through April 30, according to a press release from the airline.

Customers can change their travel plans to a flight of equal or lesser value for up to 12 months from the original ticket issue, free of charge, a United Airlines spokesperson tells CNN.

“For those trying to get home from Europe, we have capped fares between the US and Europe,” United said in the release, adding that the carrier’s regular schedule to Europe will continue through March 19.

After that, the airline expects to fly daily to Zurich, Brussels, Paris, Amsterdam, Manchester and Edinburgh.

United also expects to 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. The United Kingdom and Ireland are not affected by the new Europe restrictions.

Delta Air Lines announced a waiver for Europe to US flights Wednesday night.

“Delta has waived change fees for customers traveling to, from or through Europe and the U.K. through May 31,” the airline said in a post on its website.

Additional postings on Delta’s site on Thursday outlined trans-Atlantic schedule changes, including the suspension of seven routes after Friday, and the requirement that all returning travelers must come through airports approved by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for screening.

American Airlines has outlined its impacted routes and posted questions and answers for travelers.

“We’re experiencing high call volume,” the airline said in a notice on its homepage Thursday afternoon.

“If you wish to cancel your flight and are traveling prior to May 1, you can do this online. Please call back any time before December 31, 2020 to rebook your trip,” the notice said.

Air France flights to and from the US are operating normally on March 12 and 13, according to a posting on the carrier’s website.

The airline plans to continue service to Atlanta, Chicago O’Hare, Detroit, Los Angeles, New York JFK, San Francisco and Washington-Dulles from March 14 to March 28. All of the airports are among those approved for health screening.

The airline is “awaiting clarification from US authorities” on whether service can continue to Miami, Boston and Houston.

Tickets issued before February 27, 2020, to or from the US between March 12 and May 31, 2020, can be postponed at no extra charge by May 31.

Air France passengers who want to cancel trips to the US will be issued a non-refundable travel voucher valid for one year.

KLM has extended a flexible, no-penalty change policy for tickets issued on or before March 31, 2020, and valid for travel between March 4 and May 31, regardless of the destination.

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