During Wednesday evening’s address from the Oval Office, President Trump announced a 30-day travel ban from Europe in response to the growing coronavirus pandemic. The announcement immediately caused confusion, has been criticized by politicians and public health officials alike, and condemned by the European Union.
But, here's what we know so far: the move suspends travel from Europe, but excludes the United Kingdom. It does not apply to American citizens or legal permanent residents and their families, and it goes into effect on Friday at midnight. The U.S. State Department and CDC issued their own global travel warnings telling Americans to avoid non-essential travel to Europe.
The order suspends the entry of most foreign nationals who have been in 26 European countries during the 14 days prior to their scheduled arrival to the United States. These countries include: 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.
But what about people who have booked tickets to travel to Europe in the next month? Well, those people will have to decide if it's worth the risk to travel in the first place. One of the main suggestions for curbing the spread of coronavirus is social distancing, and air travel puts people in contact with many other people, as well as surfaces that many other people touch. Countries are also beginning to close their borders to travelers to attempt to stop the spread, and some, like Italy, have completely shut down as the number of cases continues to grow.
For people who decide to cancel their travel, airlines are preparing to accommodate them. Delta issued a travel waiver for flights between the U.S. and Europe, which means other airlines may do the same. Delta will waive ticket change fees on tickets purchased before March 11 for passengers traveling to, from, or through Europe and the U.K. through May 31. American Airlines said on Twitter they would waive change fees for customers through April 30. JetBlue has also waived change fees through April 30th, regardless of when you purchased your ticket. Your best bet is to call your airline and ask if they have a similar policy in place.
The travel suspension has resulted in mass chaos in airports across Europe as people attempt to get home before the deadline (despite the fact that the ban does not apply to U.S. citizens). Airline prices are skyrocketing, with airlines promising to put a price cap on tickets. "We are placing caps on fares for all cabins, on flights from Europe back to the U.S. that are affected by the government-imposed travel restrictions," American Airlines said in a statement provided to USA Today.
In the meantime, people trying to change their travel plans are being hit with hours-long wait times on calls to airlines, who are swamped with requests.