Coronavirus: U.S. restrictions on Europe travel latest blow to struggling airlines

The new U.S. ban on foreign citizens entering the country if they have been in Europe in recent weeks will heap more pressure on airlines already reeling from the coronavirus pandemic, analysts said, hitting European carriers the hardest.

The 30-day curbs from Friday, which exclude Britain, Ireland and other countries outside the European Schengen passport-free travel area, are similar to those that went into effect targeting China on Feb. 1. They come after the outbreak’s rapid spread across the European continent and in the United States.

Combined with a fresh U.S. State Department advisory asking citizens to reconsider the need to travel globally, the move could create chaos at dozens of airports across Europe as passengers attempt a last-minute rush to fly to the United States before the ban takes effect.

As well as slashing arrivals, the move is set to decimate spending by European tourists in the United States. There were 5.8 million arrivals from the biggest markets of Germany, France, Italy and Spain in 2018, according to U.S. data, which said they spent nearly $22 billion combined.

The news sent shares in Asian carriers sliding during the region’s trading day, with analysts warning of a significant impact to come when European markets opened.

Flights from Europe can still operate to a limited number of U.S. airports with enhanced screening under measures announced on Wednesday evening. But only U.S. citizens, permanent residents and immediate family members will be allowed in, severely denting the passenger base and hurting the U.S. tourism industry.

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