President Donald Trump's decision Wednesday to impose a 30-day ban on most Europeans entering the United States is the latest stunning setback for an airline industry that is reeling from a drop in bookings and a surge in people who are canceling reservations for fear of contracting the coronavirus.
The ban, to begin at midnight Friday, won't apply to Americans trying to return home -- though they will be subject to "enhanced" health screening -- or to citizens of the United Kingdom.
In his address from the Oval Office, Trump said U.S. restrictions on people coming from China and other countries with early outbreaks of COVID-19 had held down the number of cases in the United States compared with Europe. He blamed the European Union for failing to immediately stop travel from China "and other hot spots," which he said had led to clusters of outbreaks in the U.S being "seeded by travelers from Europe."
The ban won't apply to legal permanent residents of the United States or to immediate relatives of U.S. citizens. This category of people will be detailed in a formal proclamation, the officials said.
Meanwhile, the State Department has advised all Americans to "reconsider travel abroad" due to the pandemic.
Airlines, Aircraft Manufacturers Struggling Amidst Pandemic
Airlines have been slashing their flight schedules, especially on international routes, to cope with a sharp decline in travel demand among fearful customers. Business travel is slowing as companies impose restrictions on employee travel and major conferences are canceled.
Shares of the leading U.S. airlines have tumbled in the past few weeks, and an industry trade group warned that airlines worldwide could lose up to $113 billion in revenue from the virus -- several times the damage caused by the 2001 terror attacks in the U.S. United Airlines and American Airlines have lost more than a third of their value since Feb. 21. Shares of Delta are down more than 25%. Shares of aircraft maker Boeing have fallen 43% in that time.
It isn't just American and European airlines feeling the pain. Travel restrictions around Asia are taking a toll on that region's airlines. Cathay Pacific Airways warned Wednesday that it faces a "substantial loss" in the first half of this year. The Hong Kong-based airline canceled 90% of its flight capacity to the mainland at the start of February after Beijing told the public to avoid travel as part of efforts to contain the outbreak centered on the city of Wuhan.
With air travel and airline revenue plummeting, airlines are losing their appetite for new planes. On Wednesday, Boeing's stock fell 18% -- its biggest one-day percentage drop since 1974 -- and the iconic airplane manufacturer announced a hiring freeze.
Trump's Homeland Security Secretary acknowledged that the ban will further upend the airline industry.
"While these new travel restrictions will be disruptive to some travelers, this decisive action is needed to protect the American public from further exposure to the potentially deadly coronavirus," DHS Secretary Chad Wolf said in a statement issued shortly after the president's address.
FULL COVERAGE: fox10phoenix.com/coronavirus
Coronavirus (COVID-19) - How it spreads, symptoms, prevention, treatment, FAQ: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus
Arizona COVID-19 Response - Public resources, FAQ, webinars: https://www.azdhs.gov/coronavirus
In order to protect yourself from a possible infection, the CDC recommends:
Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
Stay home when you are sick.
Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.