New Air Travel Rules You Need to Know About
New air travel rules are in place. Here’s what you need to know.
New rules to account for the virus
A shoe bomber. Liquid explosives. An underwear bomber. A plot to detonate explosive cargo. These are just four of the threats the American aviation industry has thwarted since September 11, 2001, according to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John Kelly. But for every threat, the DHS comes up with new rules to keep us safe, including these which began rolling out in 2017 and are now in full effect at all U.S. airports, according to this press release from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). And the recent coronavirus outbreak has caused unprecedented changes in worldwide travel. Here are some regulations that have gone into effect to prevent the spread of COVID-19, as well as other safety and convenience-related air travel rules all travelers should know about. Find out exactly what to do if a world crisis forces you to cancel a trip.
No flights from much of Europe
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On Wednesday, March 11, President Trump announced that the United States would be suspending travel from all European countries besides the United Kingdom for 30 days (controversially without consulting European leaders). The government quickly clarified that it only applies to the 26 countries of the “Schengen Area,” countries that have abolished border controls between them. These countries are 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. The suspension officially takes effect at 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on Friday, March 13. It also only applies to those who are not permanent residents of the United States. The White House site has a full list of people who will not be affected.
Tweaked flight schedules
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Airlines are responding bit by bit to the sudden ban and the news is constantly changing, but as of press date, Norwegian Air has suspended most of its transatlantic flights (routes between the United States and London are still running) and has laid off around half of its employees. Delta Airlines has also suspended seven routes, including a Cincinnati-Paris route and a Portland-Amsterdam route. Luckily, fliers can get a full refund, even ones who have a nonrefundable ticket. For more on the coronavirus, find out what the words “epidemic” and “pandemic” really mean.
After the United States announced its travel ban from the Schengen Area, prices for flights from Europe to the United States predictably skyrocketed. On Thursday, March 12, American Airlines and United Airlines announced that they were capping their Main Cabin fares. Flights from Europe—including the United Kingdom, a country not part of the Schengen Area—will be maximum 799 euros (just shy of $900) or 799 British pounds (about $1,000). They also capped fares from the United States at $1,000. The caps are in effect until March 24. Find out how much the coronavirus is costing the world so far.
Rules for travelers from certain countries
Since February 3, 2020, foreign nationals who have been to China in the last 14 days cannot enter the United States. That restriction was then extended to Iran as well; both of these countries have been declared “Level 3” by the CDC. This restriction excludes U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and their families, who can still come into the country but must go through one of the 20 airports currently offering coronavirus screenings. Those airports, as of press date, are Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Honolulu, Los Angeles, New York (JFK or EWR), San Francisco, Seattle, Washington, Houston, San Diego, Anchorage, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Miami, Philadelphia, Boston, El Paso and San Juan, Puerto Rico. Delta Airlines has suspended flights to China, Japan (which has a Level 2 notice), and South Korea (also a Level 3) until the end of May. They’ve also suspended flights to Italy through April 30.
Travel restrictions for service members
On Wednesday, March 11, the Secretary of Defense announced a 60-day restriction on travel for service members. This restricts all forms of travel to, from, or through areas designated as “Level 3” locations by the CDC. In addition, civilians and families of service members cannot travel to “Level 2” locations for 60 days. These restrictions are effective Friday, March 13.
Safer air travel is now mandated by law
As of January 1, 2020, planes flying in most U.S. controlled airspace must be equipped with something called “Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast” (ADS-B), which uses GPS technology to calculate an airplane’s precise location, speed, and direction and transmits this information twice per second to ADS-B receivers. The new law is expected not only to enhance air travel safety but is also an environmentally-friendly technology. Here are 6 facts that will help you feel less anxious about air travel.
Lots of people have been standing on line (for hours) at the DMV to trade in their existing state driver’s license for a REAL ID or enhanced driver’s license. That’s because new TSA requirements slated to go into effect on October 1, 2020, would seem to require you to have one of these new-fangled forms of identification if you plan to board a plane anywhere in the United States. But as it turns out, you don’t need one of these new forms of ID if you have a passport or any TSA-approved forms of identification. If you do need to renew your license, find out how you can avoid the lines at the DMV.
Stricter rules on emotional support animals
Something else to think about are the new, more restrictive rules on pet travel that have already been imposed by major airlines, including those that apply to emotional support animals (ESA). The rules vary among airlines, so it’s a good idea to check with the specific airline every time you travel because the rules are constantly evolving. That’s partly in response to lobbying groups such as Airlines for America, which is pushing for new rules that would ban ESAs (but not service dogs). All of that said, the Department of Transportation (DOT) has a say in what kinds of rules airlines can make regarding service dogs and emotional support animals. Find out the 10 best airlines for traveling with pets.
Families shouldn’t have to pay extra to sit together
More and more airlines are charging a fee if you want to choose your seat. For some, this is a new annoyance, but for those traveling with children, it can be either very expensive or very traumatic. “I get calls from families all over the nation, telling me about being separated from their children on flights,” says Rainer Jenns, president of the Family Travel Association, which promotes family travel. That includes one from a mother who was separated on a flight from her four-year-old autistic child.
But here’s something you should know: it’s also illegal since 2016, when Congress enacted the Families Flying Together Act, which required airlines to seat any child under the age of 13 adjacent to a family member, at no additional cost. The trouble is, DOT hasn’t been enforcing the Act. That being said, the DOT told Today it receives “very few” complaints over family seating arrangements. If you find yourself having to make a choice between being separated from your children and paying a “seat selection fee,” contact DOT. Find out the best airlines for economy class fliers.