Travelers are scrambling after President Donald Trump announced a travel suspension from Europe for the next 30 days to try to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Adding to the uncertainty: the U.S. State Department and CDC on Wednesday issued global travel warnings warning Americans to avoid non-essential travel to Europe.
Here's what travelers need to know:
What's included in the ban?
Trump said the administration would restrict “all travel” to the U.S. from continental Europe, which is reeling from the epidemic, for the next 30 days. The United Kingdom is exempted.
Who is covered by the ban?
The Department of Homeland Security said the order suspends the entry of most foreign nationals who have been in certain European countries at any point during the 14 days prior to their scheduled arrival to the United States.
These countries include 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.
How will this affect Americans traveling from Europe?
The department will issue a notice in the next 48 hours "requiring U.S. passengers that have been" traveling in parts of Europe to "travel through select airports where the U.S. Government has implemented enhanced screening procedures," said Acting Secretary Chad Wolf. No word yet which airports are included or what those screening procedures might be.
When does the ban take effect?
How are airlines reacting?
Major U.S. airlines said they would implement the policies.
Delta cited "the safety and health of our customers and employees" in saying it "will continue to quickly make adjustments to service, as needed, in response to government travel directives." A United spokeswoman, Leslie Scott, said as details of the plan become known, "We will comply with the administration's announcement."
But one airline gave a nod to how the plan remains fuzzy. In a tweet, Finland national carrier Finnair said it will let passengers know details as soon as it receives them and it apologized "about the uncertainty this is causing to our customers."
What about trips already booked?
Delta was quick to issue a travel waiver late Wednesday covering flights between the U.S. and Europe, raising the possibility that other carriers would follow suit. 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.
Is there another way to catch a flight from Europe to the U.S.?
The U.K. exemption opens a lot of possibilities for connecting flights to the continent. London Heathrow is the one of the world's busiest connecting hubs.
How sudden is this?
The travel suspension announcement is sweeping, but Delta, American and United had already canceled flights to northern Italy due to earlier restrictions there.
Also, plenty of travelers had canceled spring flights to Europe out of anxiety, so Europe flights were hurting before Trumps’s ban. United on Tuesday said bookings to Europe were down 50%.
It doesn’t matter that Trump only mentioned flights from Europe to the United States, and not flights in both directions, said Brett Snyder, a former airline employee who runs the Cranky Concierge travel service. Travelers will cancel flights en masse during the busy spring break travel season.
“If they can’t come home, they’re not going to Europe,’’ he said.
Why is this happening?
Coronavirus is spreading around the world. Italy has been hit the hardest, with more than 12,000 confirmed infections and more than 800 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. France, Spain and Germany each have about 2,000 confirmed cases.
The restrictions will "deny entry to foreign nationals who have been in affected areas and will keep Americans safe and save American lives," said Wolf.
Where are there other travel restrictions?
The administration has already restricted travel from China and Iran.
What will the travel ban do to the airline industry?
It is likely to make a bad situation worse in the name of public safety.
The travel and tourism industry has taken hit after hit since the coronavirus outbreak began in January. While still early for concrete data, economists and industry executives fear 9/11- or recession-like repercussions.
U.S. airlines began suspending and cutting international flights in late January and have repeatedly added new reductions to additional destinations. Now the cuts are poised to spread to flights within the United States as travelers worry about the risks of flying anywhere, not just abroad.
United Airlines last week said it will cut its domestic seat capacity by 10% in April and May and JetBlue said it is making 5% cuts. On Tuesday, American said it is reducing international seat capacity by 10% this summer, including a 55% reduction in flights across the Pacific. Flights within the United States will be reduced by 7.5% for the month of April.
At the White House on Monday, President Donald Trump said he wanted to work with the airline and cruise industries to help them weather the coronavirus fallout.
"We'll be helping them through this patch," Trump said at a meeting with health insurance executives.