E.U. Bars Travelers From U.S. in Another Major Blow to Airline Industry

The European Union plans to bar most U.S. travelers from entering the region amid fears over failures to control the spread of COVID-19.

E.U. officials told The New York Times and CNN on Friday that senior diplomats had negotiated a list of countries deemed safe for travel with the bloc when it reopens on July 1. While the U.S. did not make the list, along with Russia and several other countries, China was reportedly deemed to be a safe country from which to welcome travelers.

The E.U. travel list could still be changed before the start of next month, as it has yet to receive formal backing from member state leaders.

But an unnamed E.U. diplomat told CNN yesterday that it was highly "unlikely" that U.S. travelers would get approval to travel into the bloc, largely due to the country's current coronavirus infection rate per 100,000 people.

Delta Airlines Plane Parked
Delta Air Lines planes parked at Terminal 1 of John F. Kennedy International Airport on May 12, 2020 in New York, NY. Pablo Monsalve/VIEWpress via Getty Images

According to the Johns Hopkins University coronavirus tracker, the U.S. has reported more than 2.4 million confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus. By comparison, second-place Brazil has reported 1.2 million COVID-19 infections.

The E.U.'s list will be updated every two weeks, The Times reported, meaning American travelers could eventually be allowed to enter the bloc if the U.S. is not included on the final list published next week.

An effective ban on E.U.-U.S. travel will come as another major blow to U.S. airlines and other businesses in the travel sector, which have already been hit by holiday cancelations and a decline in new bookings amid the global pandemic.

In a statement reacting to the E.U. travel ban, the U.S. Travel Association said the move was "incredibly disappointing" and a "step in the wrong direction" for the world economy.

"In the U.S. alone, travel-related jobs account for more than a third of lost employment due to the fallout of the pandemic," U.S. Travel Association Executive Vice President for Public Affairs and Policy Tori Emerson Barnes said. "Health is paramount, and the public has a major role to play by embracing best practices such as wearing masks, but we are at a stage when it should be possible to make progress.

"This is unwelcome news, and will have major negative implications for an economic recovery—particularly if this ban results in cycles of retaliation, as is so often the case."

The stark situation facing airlines was laid bare on Saturday morning as Reuters reported that Delta had warned its pilots about potential furloughs at the company, adding that it had reached an agreement with a pilots labor union on a voluntary early retirement option.

At the end of April, The Times reported that the Trump administration had agreed the terms of a $25 billion bailout for the U.S. airline sector. The Treasury Department said Delta was one of the companies participating in the scheme aimed at securing jobs for the short term.

Speaking earlier this week about concerns around the likely E.U. travel ban on U.S. citizens, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the administration was "working with our European counterparts" on a solution.

Vice President Mike Pence met with airline executives on Friday to discuss the problems they were facing, including travel restrictions and need for temperature checks and contact tracing. According to a White House read out, the CEOs of United Airlines, American Airlines and Delta Airlines all attended the meeting.