Will Domestic Air Travel in US Be Banned?


Last week, President Donald J. Trump announced that he was temporarily shutting down air travel between the United States and Europe (although there were a handful of countries excluded from that ban, but now more countries are being imposed, such as the United Kingdom and Ireland).

The reason is because the ongoing coronavirus outbreak is propagating throughout Europe, having wiped out the status quo in Italy, it is now hitting Spain, and France and most northern European countries are preparing for a propagation of the disease.

President Trump is necessarily responding to these events and working to get out ahead of greater spread of the disease by cutting travel from Europe to the United States.

Caustic images have since proliferated throughout the internet regarding the return en masse of American expatriates from Europe. Notably, in O’Hare International Airport, there were anywhere from three-to-five hour wait times at customs desks because so many Americans had flown back.

A fellow church parishioner of mine just made it back from Kenya through Switzerland to Miami International when the 30-day travel ban was announced. Had he been even a few hours later in his flight, there was no guarantee that he would have gotten back into the country on his time table.

The administration has also declared a national state of emergency while also calling for all Americans to hunker down and self-quarantine. Local cities across the United States have imposed curfews and restaurants, bars, movie theaters, and other public venues are closing or, at the very least, seriously reducing their hours of operation.

At the same time, grocery and convenience stores, having been shocked by the bizarre and panicked surge of Americans swamping their stores and pillaging all of the toiler paper, hand sanitizer, household cleaning supplies, have curtailed their hours of operation. This, of course, will compound issues as the country braces for greater restrictions to normal living (which is already underway).

The Department of Defense has ordered a stop to all domestic travel for military service members and their families unless directed by their commanding officers until May 11. School districts throughout the country are closing for at least the next two weeks while Ohio’s governor has floated the shutting down of the state’s public schools for the rest of the year.

Look to the DoD’s May 11 date, though. It’s a safe pick, since everyone assumes the worst of the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak in the United States will be in April. Toward that end, I suspect as things worsen in April (and they will), there will be greater restrictions and a deeper quarantine across-the-board.

There is discussion that even domestic air travel will be stopped for a period of time going forward or, at the very least, significantly reduced. Delta has already cut their usual domestic flights in half. People are being encouraged to avoid travel unless absolutely necessary. Already, Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly has said his airline has experienced “9/11-like” decreases in booking.

This is why, by the way, the Trump administration is considering capital infusions–bailouts–for the airline industry because everyone in positions of power understands that, despite what people are saying in America today, the disease is not going away in the a couple of weeks. It is propagating right now. In two weeks things are going to be worse in this country and getting worse still, not better. Maybe–hopefully–by May things will stabilize (which is why the DoD chose May 11 and why Ohio is considering a public school closure for the rest of the year rather than the next two weeks).

My guess would be that in two weeks’ time we could be witnessing serious domestic air travel bans, if not imposed from the government then certainly instituted de facto because people have really changed their daily patterns. Time will tell.

In February, this was an issue that China was weighing, not only dealing with cuts to International flights to-and-from China (though, as this site has accurately reported, those flights were reduced not stopped entirely), but also domestic flights within China:

At stake are more than 165,000 scheduled flights in and out of China between Jan. 29 and March 28 that would affect 27 million travelers, according to data from aviation consulting firm Cirium. More than 54,011 flights, or 28% of the scheduled flights to, from and within China between Jan. 23 and Feb. 4 were canceled, 14% of them the international scheduled flights. Getting around within China is also becoming more complicated, and close to 32% of domestic flights were called off in that period, Cirium data show.

Similarly, in Europe, the European Union is taking measures to significantly reduce flights throughout the EU. The European Commission revealed on Friday, March 13 of this year that they were ending the ridiculous “ghost flights” that the Commission had required its members to continue flying airliners in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, despite the fact that many of the flights were completely empty. This was an attempt to keep the European airline industry afloat. But now, the EC is terminating these ridiculous and wasteful endeavors.

Inevitably, restrictions are likely to come down the pike over the next few weeks over not only international air travel but, if the Pentagon’s move is any indication, then to domestic air travel–at least for a while. Again, whether this is an official declaration or simply a response to market forces (which would probably be preferable) is unknown at this time. But one can expect significant and prolonged disruptions to normal air travel, not only at the international level but at the domestic level as well.

Keep checking into The Weichert Report for the most up-to-date coronavirus and national security updates! Thanks.

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