The U.S. currently only permits 15 airports to receive flights from Europe (including the U.K.), China, or Brazil. That’s because passengers arriving on flights from these places are supposed to be specially screened for Covid-19, since they along with Iran are deemed high risk areas.
These airports are Atlanta, Boston, Chicago O’Hare, Dallas-Fort Worth, Detroit, Fort Lauderdale, Honolulu, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York JFK, Newark, Seattle, San Francisco and Washington Dulles. American Airlines hubs Philadelphia, Charlotte, and Phoenix aren’t on this list. Neither is Delta’s Minneapolis hub.
The passenger screening requirement is expected to go away on Monday, September 14. And that means there will be no more need for ‘funneling’ airports, opening up the possibility of flights between the U.S. and Europe especially from more airports.
As of Monday, however, international flights will no longer be funneled into select airports for screening purposes and all screenings will come to a halt, according to communications and sources. All screenings and rerouting of select international flights will cease at exactly 12:01 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 14.
Currently, travelers upon arrival to the United States are sent to health screeners who take their temperatures and conduct a basic health screening with questions about typical COVID-19 symptoms. After the health screening, passengers proceed through passport control and customs.
Aside from lower risk of Europeans arriving in the United States than Americans already being here, there wasn’t much screening of arriving passengers anyway by contractor AMR which performed most of them, or the CDC which ostensibly supervised the process.
And while there’s been some concern expressed that without screening, traveler contact information won’t be collected, and it won’t then be possible to do contact tracing, though little is actually lost.
- This is contact tracing of people not believed to have the infection
- Even if someone was on a flight with a passenger who turns out to be infected, they’re statistically unlikely to have gotten the virus on board
- Contact information can be obtained by immigration authorities if the government were so inclined
- There was very little handoff of information between CDC and local health departments to begin with. Even aside from arriving international passengers there’s been very little contact tracing in much of the country.
This, of course, was what funneling was like when it began for European flights back in mid-March:
This is the horde of people awaiting health inspections after international flights into @fly2ohare in Chicago. A social-distancing nightmare! (Shared with me by someone in Chicago) pic.twitter.com/hOywwvaWR8
— David Enrich (@davidenrich) March 15, 2020
It made zero sense to be specially screening arrivals from Europe…. but not Qatar or Mexico where infection rates have been worse. The next step that makes sense is to lift the ban on arrivals of non-residents who have been in Europe or China within the past 14 days, as they’re lower risk than many Americans (even with the surge in cases in Spain and France).
Expanding the program to include Philadelphia (and potentially Charlotte) was the number two lobbying priority behind a second round of subsidies for American Airlines. But this will work just as well. They will be allowed to operate Philadelphia – Europe flights.
(HT: Jonathan W.)