Travel ban in Europe: how passengers react


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(CNN) – Widespread confusion, exorbitant re-booking fees and a frenzied Google search characterized the early hours of President Trump’s coronavirus-induced Europe travel ban.

Trump announced on Wednesday that the United States would “suspend all travel from Europe to the United States for the next 30 days.”

The ban, which is due to begin Friday, applies only to foreign nationals, and not to U.S. citizens, immediate family members and lawful permanent residents.

Returning travelers will be screened before entering the United States and asked to self-quarantine for 14 days.

The ban does not apply to the whole of Europe either, but currently only extends to countries in the Schengen area, which allows free movement through the countries of the European Union.

The sudden decision and the uncertainty surrounding the exact details have caused panic among travelers planning to transit between Europe and the United States in the coming weeks.

“Banning travel from all over the continent does not seem fair”

Even though the rules don’t come into effect until Friday night, Fanny Alda Putri canceled her Thursday flight to Los Angeles because she didn’t want to take any risks.

The 28-year-old Indonesian, who resides in the Netherlands, said the ban caused her to give up an eight-day vacation in California, leaving her with $ 2,000 out of her pocket.

“I think every government has the right to take preventative measures to stop the spread. However, banning travel from across the continent doesn’t seem fair,” Putri told CNN, adding that she was still waiting for Delta Air Lines gives her advice on if she will get a refund.

Meanwhile, Simon P, a French cybersecurity expert who lives in Luxembourg and declined to give his last name, told CNN he canceled his first vacation in 18 months following the announcement of the ban on travel.

“During the night all my friends sent me screenshots of Trump saying that we [people traveling from Schengen zone] are banned, so basically I’m canceling $ 2,000 of hotels in the United States, car rental and flights, ”he said.

He said some of the hotels he called had told him they received thousands of cancellations from Europeans, adding that the ban didn’t logically make much sense.

“All the money I was about to spend in the United States will be spent in a country that accepts me,” he said.

Americans in limbo

The sudden announcement caused chaos at some of Europe’s largest airports, with many Americans struggling with canceled flights and costly rebooking fees.

Many of these travelers initially felt they needed to leave Europe as soon as possible, fearing that they would not be allowed to re-enter the United States if they arrived after midnight on Friday.

Once the details of the ban were clarified, many American travelers were still keen to leave the affected areas, remaining concerned about potential flight cancellations or the ban’s widening.

American vacationer Molly Butcher, 56, rushed to the UK via Eurostar before Friday, after finding out that Amsterdam-New York flights today or tomorrow would cost her $ 6,000.

“We were in Amsterdam and decided to change as we thought we just wanted to come home in case there was [Trump] the change [the ban] and the UK is no longer exempt, ”she told CNN from London Heathrow Airport.

Muhammad Alameldin woke up in Spain Thursday morning to find that his Sunday return flight to the United States had been canceled.

The digital and data associate at Berkeley, near San Francisco, described chaotic scenes at Barcelona’s El Prat Airport, where Americans were lining up long in an attempt to purchase new flights.

“I see Americans crying at the airport right now, worried about their jobs and going home,” he told CNN, adding that he could not afford a direct flight from London to the United States. United.

“We have to fly from Barcelona to Madrid to Mexico City to San Francisco,” he said of a cheaper route he was advised.

“A ban within 48 hours is not sufficient notice, the president was supposed to give a list of airports from which US citizens can travel but failed to do so,” he added.

“It’s a failure of US policy and shows the president doesn’t know how to procedurally care for Americans abroad or how to contain the coronavirus.”

“I understand the need for the ban”

Travelers queue at a Delta Airlines counter at Paris-Charles-de-Gaulle airport, following the announcement of the ban on travel to the United States in Europe.

BERTRAND GUAY / AFP / Getty Images

Many travelers are unsure how the airlines will handle the situation and whether they will be able to recover the money.

A traveler who identified herself as Madhulika, 33, is originally from India and currently lives in Paris, France, where she works for a large financial services company.

Her best friend, based in Seattle in the United States, was due in Paris for a visit in two weeks. The trip has been compromised since the announcement of the travel ban.

Madhulika says she still tries to reach Icelandair to find out the story, as her friend had to travel with the airline between Seattle and Paris, passing through Keflavik.

“We don’t know if the travel restrictions are only valid for 30 days or more, so we don’t know whether to cancel the ticket, change the dates or just forget the trip this year,” she said. told CNN.

She doesn’t know if they’ll be able to get the money back.

“It’s a scary time, especially for those with compromised immunity (like some of my friends and relatives). So I understand the need for the ban,” she adds.

“I just hope the airlines don’t take this opportunity and uncertainty to make a quick buck.”

Grief and panic

Luis Bracamontes, senior social media specialist at Tiquets, a large-scale Amsterdam-based travel company funded by Airbnb, told CNN he had had a difficult family situation exacerbated by the new travel ban.

Bracamontes is Mexican and has been based in the Netherlands since 2018.

“I had to travel at the last minute to Mexico because my mother passed away and the only affordable ticket I could find connected through the United States,” he says.

“I have no plans to enter the United States, but due to this travel ban, I have to change my plans at the last minute and spend even more money while grieving.”

Bracamontes says he was unable to change his United Airlines flight and therefore had to change his booking.

“The website was down and the lines were busy, so I had to act quickly,” he says.

He is skeptical of the effectiveness of a travel ban.

“Politics does not hear [to] point fingers and blame countries for an unstoppable situation, “he said.” Instead of a travel ban, Trump should offer free medical coverage. “

Alternative means of transport

As travel restrictions have intensified in recent weeks and some countries, including Italy, have introduced lockdowns, the status of commercial air travel is increasingly precarious.

This trend is expected to continue as Americans in Europe strive to return home as soon as possible.

Adam Twidell, CEO of private jet provider Privatefly, said there have been “a significant number of requests in the past few hours from Americans currently in Europe seeking to return to the United States.”

There have also been requests from US citizens to travel to the UK, which is currently exempt from the travel ban.

Twidell says most inquiries come from people looking to reunite their families.

“A client is bringing his daughter back to the United States from a university in France, and several of her comrades (who are also American citizens) share the return flight with her.”

Family separations

Chicago-based writer Beth Kander is currently attending a writers’ retreat in Versailles, France, along with other American writers and playwrights.

The trip was booked a year ago, she said.

“Before leaving last week for the long-awaited trip, I almost canceled – several other attendees canceled,” Kander told CNN. “For me the most important factor is my three year old daughter. The thought of not being able to go home is horrible.

“I thought I made the right call coming on this trip… but when my phone started ringing at 2:30 am local time, I suddenly worried that it was the wrong thing to do.”

When the ban was first announced, the details were not clear.

“Everyone in the house really panicked, first thinking in the middle of the night that we had less than a day to figure out how to get home,” she says.

Still, Kander is worried about coming home. She booked a flight for Saturday and is struggling to reach her airline to confirm details.

“I am very concerned about the cancellation of flights,” she said.

“Plus, the initial communication was so awful and everything was handled so badly that I won’t really feel comfortable until I’m really home.

“Until I hug my daughter, I won’t really breathe out. But I know I’m one of the luckiest in these scary times, and my heart is with everyone having a worse time than we.”

CNN’s Vasco Cotovio and Francesca Giuliani-Hoffman contributed to this story.

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