Capping off a tumultuous first week in office, President Donald Trump issued an executive order on Friday that — without warning — closed America’s gates to immigrants, refugees, and visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries. The order invited swift reactions across the U.S. and around the world. It also threw the aviation world into disarray. Individuals were held at airports without access to legal counsel, and airlines struggled to understand the executive order’s harsh ramifications. Airline crews even had to be adjusted in some cases.
AirlineReporter usually doesn’t venture too far into the world of politics, but given that this executive order has huge implications for air travelers around the world, we wanted to share some thoughts. Read on for an overview of the new policy, its impact on travelers over the weekend and beyond, and what we think it means for the spirit of air travel. (Spoiler alert: it’s not looking good)
What does the executive order do?
- It bars the entry of people from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, or Yemen for ninety days. This applies to immigrants, students, tourists, flight crews, and other visa applicants. It even blocks the Iraqis and Afghans who risked their lives to help U.S. troops. People originally from the seven listed countries are barred even if they are currently citizens of another country. Olympian British runner Mo Farah, who has a home in the U.S., was among those affected initially.
- It suspends refugee processing and admissions for 120 days, and suspends Syrian refugee processing and admissions indefinitely. Once the 120 days is over, the number of refugees admitted in the fiscal year 2017 will be cut by more than half.
There have already been some alterations made since the order was passed, and the policy could see further tweaks in the weeks ahead. Federal courts have already blocked a small portion of the order, allowing individuals being held at airports to leave. However, the judge’s ruling only applied to people who were at airports or in the air when the order was issued, leaving the majority of the order in place.
The impact on air travel
In a word: chaos — at least at certain U.S. international gateway airports like New York (JFK) and San Francisco (SFO). Individuals from the affected countries were being detained at airports and barred from speaking with lawyers, while others were barred from boarding flights to the US. Airport immigration officials struggled to comprehend the order and put it into action on such short notice. Airlines faced the same struggle. Most did their best to alert passengers already in transit who may be affected. Delta stated in a praiseworthy press release that it would rebook or refund affected travelers. Other airlines put travel advisories on their websites. Airlines can’t be thrilled that such a disruptive executive order was dropped on them with no warning. A representative for KLM, which had a number of passengers affected, noted that, “We would love to bring them there [to the U.S.]. That’s not the problem. It’s just that this is what the U.S. sprang on the rest of the world — that these people are no longer welcome.”
Large impromptu protests came together at many U.S. airports, including Chicago O’Hare, Washington Dulles, SEA, SFO, and LAX. At JFK, the massive crowd overflowed the Terminal 4 arrivals area and packed a nearby parking garage, even forcing the Port Authority to restrict usage of the AirTrain.
The executive order has serious downstream affects on U.S. citizens as well, as international reprisals have already begun. Iran and Iraq issued or are considering a reciprocal ban on U.S. travelers and journalists, for example, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see other countries follow suit.
The broader implications
While some of the Americans who voted for President Trump may be happy with his executive order, it’s safe to say that his immigration and refugee ban pissed a TON of people off — and for good reason. The policy came under fire for being an abandonment of American values, a thinly veiled “Muslim ban,” hastily executed, and a new recruiting tool for terrorists, among a number of other critiques.
What about its goal of preventing terrorism in the U.S.? Ever since the tragedy of 9/11, terrorism has cast a shadow over air travel. However, it’s been pointed out that Trump’s executive order would have blocked exactly zero of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers based on their country of origin; Saudi Arabia, home to the bulk of them, was not included in this ban for unknown reasons.
In the short term, the executive order is nothing but bad news for air travelers. The international community is angry, the airline industry is scrambling, and long-awaited family reunions are being postponed. Individuals who live in the U.S. and may have taken a quick trip for business or to visit family — like many of us do every year — are worried that they won’t be able to come home. The likelihood of reciprocal actions from indignant foreign governments may mean that the global skies will be a little less free for Americans as well.
The symbolic significance of Trump’s order is no less important: it is a setback for air travel and all that it does to bring the world closer together.
We at AirlineReporter have enjoyed the privilege of covering stories from places around the world, like:
- Stopping by the Dubai Airshow
- Getting an invite to Mexico City to fly the AeroMexico 787 Simulator
- Attending the Duxford Air Museum’s Anniversary Tribute to the Battle of Britain in the UK
- Experiencing Turkish Hospitality Firsthand
- Touring Southeast Asia on Vietnam Airlines
- Hearing the Lufthansa Orchestra play in Puerto Rico
- Having our Minds Blown by the Fully-Functional Miniature Knuffingen Airport in Hamburg, Germany
- Reporting on the Improvements in Indian Airports
- Checking out Cutting-Edge Tech at the Moscow Airshow
- Exploring the Evergreen Aviation Technologies Maintenance Facility in Taiwan
… just to name a very few.
The point is that no matter where we get to go for stories, we get nothing but smiles and warm welcomes. We get to see different countries and cultures put their best foot forward through their airlines, airports, and airshows. We are never made to feel that we are unwelcome guests. And every time we step through the front doors of an airport, we get to enjoy a sense of endless possibility — of endless places to go, and endless people to meet. It’s a feeling that you probably know too.
By sending the message that large swaths of the world are not welcome in the U.S., Trump’s executive order tarnishes the spirit of air travel that we all love as #AvGeeks, regardless of where we live or where we come from.
Whether you support the executive order, oppose it, or have been directly affected by it, AirlineReporter would love to hear your take on this issue. Share your thoughts in the comments section below. We only ask that the conversation remains civil and respectful.