Coronavirus travel chaos has erupted after USA President Donald Trump yesterday announced the Europe travel ban is to extend to the UK and Ireland. The ban has been implemented on the advice of health officials and will be put in place from midnight eastern time on Monday. Vice President of the United States Mike Pence said: “In our taskforce meeting today the president has made a decision to suspend all travel to the UK and Ireland, effective midnight Monday night, eastern standard time.”
The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has subsequently issued an urgent warning to British travellers.
The FCO announced today: “From 03.59 GMT 17 March, it will not be possible for most British nationals to enter the USA owing to coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions imposed by the US authorities.
“President Trump announced on 14 March that travel restrictions imposed previously on Schengen zone countries would be extended to the UK (and Ireland). This means travellers who have been in the UK (or Ireland) within the previous 14 days before their planned day of arrival in the USA will not be allowed entry unless they fall into one of the exempted categories.
“US citizens and permanent resident of the USA, their close family members and certain other limited categories of visa holders (such as UN staff and diplomats) are exempt and will still be able to enter the United States, subject to normal entry requirements.
“British travellers currently in the USA will be allowed to leave. The new US travel restrictions are likely to affect commercial flight schedules to the UK and we recommend that British travellers who wish to leave by air make appropriate arrangements to ensure their travel plans can be met.
“The new restrictions also limit the number of airports to which flights from the UK (and Ireland) can operate. The 13 airports are: JFK (New York), EWR (Newark), IAD (Washington DC), BOS, (Boston), ORD (Chicago), DTW (Detroit), MIA (Miami), ATL (Atlanta), DFW (Dallas), LAX (Los Angeles), SFO (San Francisco), SEA (Seattle) and HML (Honolulu).
“Those who are permitted entry to the USA from the UK (or Ireland) are likely to be asked to self-isolate, possibly for up to 14 days.
“You should comply with any additional screening measures put in place by the US authorities. Keep up to date with information from your airline, tour operator, transport or accommodation provider on the impact to any existing travel plans. If you need further information about entry requirements, contact your airline or travel agent or check the latest guidance of the appropriate US Government Website.
The number of cases in the USA has rocketed to 2,952, at the time of writing.
However, what will this mean for holidaymakers with travel plans in place for America?
Multiple airlines with routes between the USA and the UK are currently in the process of “reevaluating” their flight schedules following the news.
“The CAA must monitor the situation closely to ensure airlines are fulfilling all of their legal duty to passengers when flights are disrupted, so that we don’t see a repeat of the situation in Italy where passengers were left stranded.”
As for holiday accommodation, Boland added: “If you booked the accommodation as part of a package holiday then your money will be protected under the ATOL scheme.
“If not, check the situation with the place you were planning to stay as lots of hotel chains, booking sites such as Booking.com and Airbnb are offering refunds.”
Travellers are urged to speak with their travel provider in light of coronavirus developments.
UK travel trade association ABTA said in a statement today: “The evolving coronavirus situation is extraordinary and the Foreign & Commonwealth (FCO) advice in relation to specific destinations is changing rapidly, so it is very important that anyone due to travel imminently checks the FCO advice for their specific destination and liaises with their travel provider.
“Travel companies are working around the clock to support customers, their decisions will be guided by the operational situation and Government advice.
“Given the extraordinary volume of enquiries and the rapidly changing situation, the best course of action for travellers with future bookings is to monitor and follow FCO advice for the destination they are travelling to, and wait for their travel provider to contact them if the situation changes in regards to their booking.
“Many travel companies are doing all they can to offer flexible booking policies at this time, such as giving customers the option to change their departure dates without charge, so we’d recommend talking to them about the options that are open to you.”
As for those with flights booked, many airlines are allowing passengers to change their flights for free or apply for a refund.
Concerning USA flights, British Airways has explained the following on its website:
“If you are halfway through your journey and would like to return home earlier than planned, please call the contact centre and we’ll book you onto the next available flight. We know our lines are busy, however we’ve brought in extra teams to help so please bear with us.
“If you are due to travel before 1 August, and have not yet started your journey and would like to change the date or cancel your trip, you can opt to travel on a different date, or choose to cancel your journey and receive a voucher for the value of your ticket.”
BA also said: “These are unprecedented times for our industry, our country and the world. Please be assured that our expert teams are working closely with the UK Government and health organisations around the world to ensure we’re following the very latest advice. We’ll do everything we can to help customers affected.
As for fee waivers, the airline said: “We fully understand that many of our customers want to change their travel plans given the evolving situation, so we have put a number of measures in place so that you can book with confidence with British Airways.
“To allow greater flexibility, we are enabling customers to change their destination, date of travel, or both for free, on all new bookings made from Tuesday 3 March to Sunday 31 May 2020, as well as any existing bookings that depart up to Sunday 31 May 2020.”
Following Trump’s announced ban, Virgin is “evaluating” what this means for customers and said their schedule “remains as published on our website.”
A Virgin Atlantic spokesperson told Express.co.uk: “We continue to monitor the Covid-19 situation very carefully, including the latest guidance from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), as well as any new entry or quarantine restrictions implemented by the countries we fly to.
“We are aware of reports that a travel advisory is expected to be issued by the US government stating that from 17th March they will deny entry to UK nationals.
“We are currently evaluating what this means for our customers and flying programme. At present, our schedule remains as published on our website.
“We’d like to apologise for any inconvenience caused and any customers booked to travel should visit www.virginatlantic.com for the latest information or contact our Virgin Atlantic customer care team via our SMS messaging system +44(0) 7481 339184 to discuss their options. As we deal with the high demand of enquiries we ask customers to only get in touch if they’re travelling in the next 72 hours.”
Virgin has introduced a flexible no change fees policy.
For bookings made before 12 March, for travel between 1 March and 31 May 2020. Travel can be rebooked between 13 March 2020 and 31 December 2020.
For bookings made between 4 March and 31 March, travel can be rebooked between 4 March 2020 and 31 December 2020.
“This means that if your plans do need to change, you can switch your flight to an alternative date with no penalty,” said Virgin. “Rebooked flights will be subject to availability and any difference in fare.
“You can also choose to re-route on a Virgin Atlantic or Virgin Atlantic Codeshare flight to or from your original destination or rebook to or from another destination. Travel must be completed on or before 31 December 2020.
“This policy applies to all booking classes (including Economy Light) on all routes in Virgin Atlantic’s international network, and for tickets booked with us on our transatlantic codeshare flights with Delta, Air France and KLM. Your flight number will begin with the letters “VS”. It also includes Flying Club redemption bookings.”
American is “evaluating its current scheduled service to the United Kingdom and Ireland,” following Trump’s ban, the airline said today.
“American has not yet made any additional adjustments to its schedule at this time. American previously announced a schedule reduction to London on March 12, 2020,” said the carrier in a statement online.
“American continues to work closely with U.S. authorities to comply with these new orders while treating all of our customers with respect. 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 change fee for American Airlines is waived if you booked an American Airlines flight on or before March 11, 2020 and you are scheduled to travel March 11 – May 31, 2020.
You will need to be able to travel between travel March 11 and December 31, 2020 or within one year of the date the ticket was issued.
“Keep in mind, you may owe any difference in ticket price when you rebook your trip,” said American Airlines.
“You’re allowed to make changes to your trip once. You can change it now, or cancel and rebook later.”
The carrier added: “Travel must start by December 31, 2020 or within 1 year of date the ticket was issued.
“The change fee will be waived but you may still owe any difference in ticket price when you rebook your trip.”
United is axing Houston-London and Denver-London flights from Monday 16 March.
United are waiving change fees for all tickets issued on or before March 2 — domestic or international — with original travel dates of March 9 through April 30.
United said online: “If you’re scheduled to travel March 10 – April 30, 2020, and would like to change your plans, there is no fee to do so, regardless of when you purchased your ticket or where you’re travelling.
“We will continue to fly our regular schedule from Europe to the U.S. through March 20, except Houston-London and Denver-London, which we’re suspending after March 16.
“After March 20, we will fly three daily flights to London and Frankfurt, two daily flights to Munich, daily service to Dublin, Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris and Zurich, and four flights a week to Lisbon.”
Delta Air Lines
Delta Air Lines said today it plans to soon announce additional schedule changes to its European flights, reported Reuters.
Concerning fee waivers, Delta said: “For tickets where we are permitting a one-time change without a fee, the fare for your new flight will apply. If the new fare is higher, we will collect the difference. If the new fare is lower, we will issue a Delta travel voucher for the difference (very limited exceptions apply).
“If you are travelling to an impacted destination and a waiver applies (for example, designated countries in Asia, Europe and South or Central America), there is no price difference when you move your travel dates if you select travel that begins before December 31, 2020.”
Published at Sun, 15 Mar 2020 17:57:00 +0000