European travel ban: Chaos at European airports on eve of Trump travel restrictions

One of them was Jean-Bernard Cadier, a French journalist based in Washington, DC, for the French television channel BFM. He was originally booked to return to Washington next week, but after rumors began circulating of possible border closures, he said he had changed his flight to March 15 to be safe.

Long queues of passengers were seen at Madrid Barajas airport on March 12, after the United States imposed sweeping restrictions on travel from Europe to the United States. (Reuters)

Then came Trump’s announcement on Wednesday, and he booked again – this time on United Airlines Flight 914 from Charles de Gaulle to Dulles on Friday, a ticket he was lucky enough to confirm. But as soon as Cadier and the other passengers boarded the plane, the plane had a mechanical problem. The pilot canceled the flight.

“It was the most stressful morning,” Cadier said. “People didn’t know what to do, where to go.”

Waiting in line to collect his luggage, he booked himself a last-minute flight to New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport on Norwegian Air Shuttle via Expedia, but later said airline employees had him says he qualified for a rebooking on Air France because he had a valid U.S. work visa. He was scheduled to arrive at JFK on Friday evening and at Reagan National Airport on Saturday.

Around the world, flights have been canceled and travelers have stayed home as the novel coronavirus outbreak has become a pandemic. (The Washington Post)

This frantic trajectory – rumors of border closures, flight changes, last-minute bookings, often at high prices – was becoming more common across Europe on Friday, as Europeans who were not equally American citizens or permanent residents have done everything to return. in the United States to work or to return to their families.

“I wouldn’t criticize [Trump] too hard on that, which is a first for me,” Cadier said. “Because I think it’s so hard to be an executive these days that we don’t know it. So it’s very easy to criticize this one. I was personally shocked from a personal point of view, because it was going to profoundly affect my life, but as a politician, I don’t know.

Europeans but also more Americans cut their trips short and returned early on Friday, after thousands of American travelers descended on European airports early Thursday, hours after Trump initially announced that all European travel to the United States would be suspended, a White House assertion later. came back to clarify that US citizens and permanent residents would be exempt.

“What does it mean to ban travel? Were they only Americans or foreign nationals? I’m pretty sure they didn’t understand the logistics they needed,” said Meghan Moore, who was traveling to Paris with her husband when Trump gave his speech.

The two were already confirmed to fly back to Philadelphia on American Airlines on Thursday, but she said they got to the airport around 4 a.m. shortly after learning of Trump’s announcement. By the time the ticket offices opened at 6:15 a.m., there were at least 1,000 people in line, Moore estimated.

Not everyone heard the White House’s subsequent clarification on US citizens in time. A particular example is that of American parents whose children were studying in Europe.

Stefanie Kalman, director of sales and marketing for Hilton Worldwide Holdings, said she was at her home on Long Island watching Trump’s address on CNN Wednesday night and flew to the computer to book at his college-aged daughter an emergency flight from Barcelona to JFK.

Although the progression of the coronavirus in Europe made it clear that her daughter and her classmates would have to return home earlier than planned, Kalman said, she did not expect a delay within 48 hours.

The first flights she tried – at skyrocketing prices – wouldn’t let her book, saying the seat in question had already been reserved. Kalman eventually found a ticket on Norwegian — from Barcelona to Oslo to JFK — that cost more than $1,100 on an airline known for its economy fares.

“Thirty-four or thirty-five minutes later they came back and said, oops, this doesn’t apply to US citizens – but the damage was already done,” she said. “It’s affected so many people tremendously because a man can’t read.”

The uncertainty continued upon arrival, Moore said, with no screening of any kind at Philadelphia International Airport on Thursday.

“The weirdest thing about coming home: there was nothing. We went through customs. Nobody did anything; no one said a word. If it’s bad enough to enact a travel ban, then shouldn’t they put controls in place? »

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