Donald Trump has banned all travel from the Schengen Area of Europe to the US. How will this affect UK citizens? Will your flight be cancelled? What is the latest Foreign Office advice? Below, we answer all your coronavirus travel questions
President Donald Trump has today announced that all travel from Europe to the United States will be suspended in a bid to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
The restrictions, coming into effect at midnight (US time) on Friday March 13, affect travel from most EU countries but does not include the United Kingdom or Ireland. He blamed Europe for failing to stop what he called the “foreign virus”.
With people waking up to this news, there will be many holidaymakers and business travellers asking questions about their upcoming trip to the USA.
Will your flight still take off? Is it still a good idea to go? What if you get stranded in the US? Are there any particular places to avoid? What insurance should you get?
Below, we answer all your questions. We will be updating this piece throughout the day as the White House releases more details on how the travel ban will work in practice.
Will my flight be affected?
The travel ban affects the Schengen Area of mainland Europe. This means that, as of 11.59pm in the US (3.59am in the UK) on Friday March 13 2020, no flights to or from the 26 countries that make up the Schengen Area will be able to depart to or from the US.
If your flight departs from the UK but travels via a European city, then it will be affected. If you are scheduled to fly direct from the UK to the US, then at present your flight should go ahead.
How many flights will be affected?
Several thousand, for certain. According to FlightAware, a flight-tracking service, there are in the region of 400 daily flights from Europe to the US. Over a 30-day period, we will be looking at 10,000 or more flights impacted by the travel ban, affecting in the region of 200,000 travellers.
What countries make up the Schengen Area?
The Schengen Area is made up of 26 European 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.
What are airlines saying?
Telegraph Travel has reached out to a number of airlines for comment. A spokesperson for Norwegian said: “We are fully aware of the latest developments concerning travel between certain European countries and the US. Our flights to and from US are currently operating as normal.”
American Airlines has released a statement, saying: “American continues to work closely with US 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.”
What if I’ve visited the Schengen Area recently?
The travel ban will affect anyone who has been to a Schengen Area country in the last 14 days. So if you have travelled to France and returned to the UK in the last 14 days, for example, and intended to fly to the US tomorrow, you would not be permitted entry on arrival.
Which other countries does the US block?
The US has temporarily denied entry to foreign nationals who have been in China in the 14 days prior to their arrival in the US. Visitors from Iran are also not admitted, and the State Department has issued “do not travel” warnings to areas in South Korea and Italy that have been affected by the outbreak.
I was about to book – should I still go ahead?
There are a number of factors to consider. The main one is the possibility that Donald Trump may extend his travel ban to the United Kingdom and Ireland. If this is the case, your flights could be cancelled, or you may find yourself stranded in the US without a return option. If you do decide to go ahead with your trip, it is important you have a good insurance policy that has you covered in these eventualities (see below).
Will flight prices go up?
The price of flights from London to the US has rocketed on the back of Donald Trump’s announcement, David Millward from The Telegraph reports:
“One-way economy flights on British Airways from Heathrow to New York in March are now costing over £1,500. Virgin Atlantic flights are marginally cheaper at just over £1,400. American Airlines is quoting one-way fares over $1,800 (£1,400) and on certain days in excess of $2,000.
“Airlines use what is known in the industry as dynamic pricing, with the cost increasing as demand grows. Much of the work is done by computer, working on algorithms to anticipate what demand is likely to be. Price surges are triggered by internet searches on particular routes.
“With the UK being the only route out of Europe to the US, demand is expected to be heavy with tens of thousands of passengers scrambling to find a way of crossing the Atlantic.
“March is normally a quiet time of year for transatlantic travel and the spike is certain to trigger accusations of price gouging by the industry.”
What happens if I get stuck in the US?
If your flight is cancelled due to the US travel ban, and you find yourself stranded in the US, you should be eligible to a refund or rebooking alternative through your airline. Contact your airline for their terms and conditions, and contact your insurance provider for their policy on reimbursing travel costs due to flight cancellations.
How many coronavirus cases have there been in the US?
The US coronavirus figures are as follows (as of March 12):
- 1,336 confirmed cases
- 38 deaths
- 1,283 active cases
- 15 recovered
- 10 serious/critical condition
Can I still get insurance for my US trip?
Yes, and it is a good idea to do so. So long as the country you are visiting does not have a Foreign Office warning in place at the time of travel (see the FCO website) then your insurance will be valid.
If an airline cancels your flight due to the coronavirus, or a travel ban, you should be eligible for a refund or rebooking alternative. British Airways, which has already cancelled a number of flights to Europe and the US due to coronavirus, said not to travel to the airport if your flight had been cancelled. EasyJet and Ryanair have also cancelled flights; all cite reduced demand.
Note, however, that today one of the UK’s biggest insurers, Aviva, has cut back on their cover available for travel disruption. A spokesperson said: “We have decided to adjust our cover to reflect the current risks posed by coronavirus.” Be sure to read the smallprint of your insurance policy before travelling, or give them a call if you are uncertain.
You can see our full advice on how coronavirus affects travel insurance, here.
What if I decide to cancel my flight to the US?
You will not be allowed to cancel your flight without penalty if your flight is still scheduled to depart but you simply do not wish to travel.
However, airlines sometimes act with good will in such situations – for example, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic are allowing refunds and rebookings for Hong Kong, despite the Foreign Office not imposing travel restrictions – and may offer you options. Contact your airline as soon as possible and ask for their policy.
What does the FCO say about travel to the US?
The FCO does not have a travel warning in place for the US. On March 12, its advice reads: “There is an ongoing outbreak of coronavirus. The virus originated in Wuhan City, Hubei Province but cases have been confirmed in other parts of China and in some countries, including the United States. You should comply with any additional screening measures put in place by the local authorities. Given the fast changing situation, you should check the latest entry requirements for your destination and keep in touch with your airline, cruise line or tour operator before you travel.
“With effect from 2 February, the US Government will not permit entry to the USA of any foreign nationals who have visited China 14 days or less prior to their travel to the USA. On 29 February the US Government announced that it would not permit entry to the USA of any foreign nationals who have visited Iran 14 days or less prior to their travel to the USA. More information for travellers to the USA can be found on the US Centre for Disease Control (CDC) website, including information about cases in the United States.
“American Samoa currently requires all non-US passport holders to spend at least 14 days in Hawaii, Samoa (Apia) or Tonga before entering. Other restrictions for those travelling from countries affected by the outbreak could also be in force. If you’re due to travel, check the websites of the American Samoa Government and the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention for any updates, and with your airline before leaving.”
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