Travel restrictions extended to UK, Ireland, further cutting into cargo capacity

President Donald Trump has extended travel restrictions to the U.K. and Ireland, he announced today. The restrictions are identical to those placed on 26 European countries on Wednesday. Foreign nationals that have been in these countries in the past 14 days will not be allowed to enter the U.S., according to the Department of Homeland Security.

U.S. citizens and their immediate families will generally be allowed back into the U.S. According to reports, the White House is also considering possible domestic travel restrictions. The Department of Defense has stopped domestic travel for all service members, civilian employees and their families.

Homeland Security said that citizens, legal permanent residents, and their immediate families returning to the U.S. must travel through one of 13 airports to receive additional screening and then must self-quarantine for 14 days. The new bans do not include cargo, but will have an effect, regardless. The Wall Street Journal reported that 60% of airfreight between Europe and the U.S. flies in the belly of passenger planes.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) said there was an average of 550 flights a day between the U.S. and the 26 European countries in the initial ban. “Given the importance of belly capacity for air cargo in this market, clearly the measures announced yesterday will cause a severe drop in capacity offered,” Gerard de Wit, WorldACD managing director, told the Journal. On Friday, Delta announced it would cancel flights from Europe to the U.S. for 30 days, joining other airlines that have done the same.

The airline said it would continue service to London, but with the new travel ban, that is uncertain at this time. American, Lufthansa, and United Airlines are among those that are slashing service globally, although not all airlines have cancelled service as Delta has. IATA said global air cargo declined 3.3% in January year-over-year, as measured by freight ton kilometers (FTKs).

The organization, though, said it was unlikely that coronavirus had much to do with the reduction, suggesting that February and March numbers may be much worse. “January marked the tenth consecutive month of year-on-year declines in cargo volumes. The air cargo industry started the year on a weak footing.

There was optimism that an easing of U.S.-China trade tensions would give the sector a boost in 2020. But that has been overtaken by the COVID-19 outbreak, which has severely disrupted global supply chains, although it did not have a major impact on January’s cargo performance. Tough times are ahead.

The course of future events is unclear, but this is a sector that has proven its resilience time and again,” Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s director general and CEO, said in a statement. North American airlines saw demand in January fall 1.3%. In 2019, air freight saw its worst performance since 2009, falling 3.3% compared to 2018.

The U.S. saw a decline of 3.4%. The ban on travel from the U.S. will have broad impacts on airlines, said IATA. “Governments must impose the measures they consider necessary to contain the virus,” de Juniac said. “And they must be fully prepared to provide support to buffer the economic dislocation that this will cause.

In normal times, air transport is a catalyst for economic growth and development. Suspending travel on such a broad scale will create negative consequences across the economy. Governments must recognize this and be ready to support.”

The total value of the U.S.-Schengen market in 2019 was £20.6 billion, including passenger revenue. The markets facing the heaviest impact are U.S.-Germany (£4 billion), U.S.-France (£3.5 billion) and U.S.-Italy (£2.9 billion). North of the border, Canada has also announced preliminary restrictions on travel, but has not announced a ban.

Transport Minister Marc Garneau said international arrivals will have to flow through a limited number of airports, but those have not been announced yet.

He also urged Canadians to postpone or cancel non-essential international travel.

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