If you’re trying to get home to the U.S. from Europe, life becomes more complicated at the stroke of midnight EDT Friday night.
Foreigners from most European nations – but not the United Kingdom and a handful of other countries – will be banned from coming to the U.S. under President Donald Trump’s announced travel restrictions due to the coronavirus outbreak worldwide.
And Americans taking return flights to the U.S. will face their own issues. Here’s what you need to know before the ban takes effect:
How long is the ban in effect?
In his televised speech outlining the ban on Wednesday, President Trump said it will last 30 days, though the written proclamation made room for the possibility of extending it based on guidance from the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Bottom line: It will remain “in effect until terminated by the president.”
Who is exempt from the ban?
According to the White House’s website, individuals meeting the following criteria may still enter the country during the next 30 days:
- U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (green card holders)
- Members of the U.S. armed forces, their spouses and children
- Foreign spouses and children of citizens and lawful permanent residents
- Foreign parents and legal guardians of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident who is unmarried and under the age of 21
- Unmarried foreign siblings of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents under the age of 21
- Foster children or ward of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents and prospective adoptees entering under IR-4 or IH-4 visas
- Air and sea crew members traveling as nonimmigrants on C-1, D cor C-1/D visas
- Diplomats and other foreign government officials, their spouses and children
- Foreigners traveling to the U.S. at the invitation of the government for a purpose related to the containment of the virus
In an interview with CNN, Vice President Mike Pence, who is spearheading the federal response to the virus, said every American and permanent legal resident returning from Europe will be expected to self-quarantine themselves for 14 days to make sure they aren’t at risk for spreading COVID-19
Where can I fly from once the ban takes effect?
The United Kingdom and Ireland are both exempt from the ban, so traffic going through those countries’ airports is likely to spike once the ban takes effect at midnight Friday night.
As one of the world’s biggest hubs, London’s Heathrow International Airport connects U.S. airports with those in cities throughout continental Europe. As such, many travelers may look to it as a transit option once the supply of nonstop flights from those cities is shut off.
Trump, in his press conference Friday afternoon to announce he is declaring a national emergency, said the UK was exempted because it had fewer cases than in other European countries. But he also noted that since the list of nations was compiled, the U.K. has seen a spike and might be added to the list. For the matter, some of the countries already named may come off.
Are there restrictions on which US airport I can enter through?
Yes. American citizens must enter this country through one of the 13 major international airports that already serve as hubs for international flights and were used to screen passengers entering the country from China beginning in early February. They are:
- Atlanta Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport
- Dallas Fort Worth International Airport
- Detroit Metropolitan Airport
- Newark Liberty International Airport
- Honolulu’s Daniel K. Inouye International Airport
- New York JFK
- Los Angeles International Airport
- Chicago O’Hare International Airport
- Seattle-Tacoma International Airport
- San Francisco International Airport
- Washington-Dulles International Airport
- Boston Logan International Airport
- Miami International Airport
Am I going to have to pay an arm and a leg to get home?
Ticket prices on flights between Europe and the U.S. soared shortly after Trump’s announcement Wednesday night. In the mad scramble to book, prices for one-way flights on United’s website Thursday surged as high as $5,700 for the last flights out of Europe Friday.
Delta, American and United Airlines said Thursday they are imposing caps on ticket prices. American spokeswoman Andrea Koos, for example, said economy fares from the U.S. are being limited to $1,000, including taxes.
I booked a cheap flight to Europe before the ban was announced. What now?
Delta issued a travel waiver late Wednesday covering flights between the USA and Europe, raising the possibility that other carriers would follow suit.
Delta Air Lines: Delta said it will waive ticket change fees for passengers traveling to, from or through Europe and the U.K. through May 31. The waiver applies to travelers who purchased tickets before March 11.
United Airlines: United said passengers scheduled to fly between up until April 30 who wish to change their plans can do so without paying a fee regardless of when the ticket was purchased or where they are traveling.
American Airlines: American said passengers will not have to pay a change fee if they meet the following criteria:
- Ticket was purchased before March 11
- Travel is scheduled between March 11 and May 31
- Travel is completed within one year of the ticket purchase date