U.S. Bans Returning Cruise Passengers From Taking Commercial Flights

Over the past several days multiple airline flight crews have refused to work their flights because they were carrying passengers off of Holland America’s Zaandam cruise ship. The Zaandam was turned away from Chile on March 21, finally made its way to Fort Lauderdale. Several passengers were confirmed positive with COVID-19 and four had died.

Passengers who had not shown symptoms were cleared to travel home. An American Airlines crew wouldn’t fly them to Dallas. A United Airlines crew wouldn’t fly 135 Australian citizens from San Francisco home to Sydney. United set up a charter flight for the passengers the next day.

There are several cruise ships still at sea. Carnival still has 5 ships at sea with passengers on board, reportedly with no sick passengers.. MSC Cruises has one ship at sea.

And the U.S. government will no longer allow returning cruise passengers to take commercial flights.

Cruise passengers and employees arriving back into the U.S. will have to take chartered flights. American Airlines says they will not provide such charters, as they explained today to employees:

It seems to me that the CDC’s recommended 14 day self-quarantine should occur on arrival, prior to travel on even chartered transport if at all possible – or charters ought to be taking extensive precautions.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. How is this enforced?

    From the perspective of the cruise ship passengers – I’ve already gone through a huge ordeal. And I would presumably be desperate to head home. There is absolutely nothing stopping me from booking some cheap flight on Spirit or whatever to get home, and whether it is recommended or not, from the perspective of the cruise passengers I just want to get home after all this time and unless there is strong enforcement nothing is going to stop me from it.

  2. This regulation is from the CDC who wouldn’t allow proven Covid19 tests from overseas, who produced inaccurate tests, and who started monitoring way to late after China’s problems came to light in 12/19. To little – to late.

    How about producing enough test to determine if you have the virus, or have developed antibodies to the virus, and require all cruise lines to test passengers and crews 5 days before arrival in the USA. THIS might produce the desired results.

    The Trump administration needs more action before writing new rules.

  3. Soooo glad we cancelled our cruise. There is absolutely no way I’m taking the risk of boarding any cruise ship for the indeterminate future!

  4. I can see lawsuits! Especially for people already holding tickets. Whether flight date has past or not, there will be consequences. Just another reason for AA being on my shitlist!

  5. @ Johnb “I can see lawsuits! Especially for people already holding tickets.”

    I can’t. Unless they want to sue the CDC and the FAA. If the FAA tells American not to fly them, there’s no way a judge is going to hold AA negligent or otherwise responsible for failing to do so.

  6. So I stay at a hotel in Miami a few days post cruise and take a flight later. This is the stupidest thing yet. . . when’s the election so amateur hour can end.

  7. Times are tough as they say. I love cruising and was nearly on one of the last cruise ship sailing dates. I think this would be a major problem for international travelers but domestically there are other ways around this. I remember post 9-11 renting a car in Phoenix to get home to St. Louis since no flights had been allowed at that time. Of course, I didn’t blame this on the President like @sunviking82 who would rather not take the advice of the CDC, Coast Guard, Department of State and others. Likely would lie and just get on another flight with essential travelers to get home in time for the next Biden vlog.

  8. Given your other story about the Eden-Roc, maybe Holland-America could work a deal with the New York private school to house the cruise ship passengers at the Eden-Roc for 2 weeks. Mitigates the damages, maybe?

  9. Is there a point when enough is enough? This is not the first “partially understood” epidemic. As a physician, I remember when we did not really understand what caused AIDS, and we though standing close to a gay person would cause contagion, then, we went through Legionnaire’s Disease, Bird Flu, Swine Flu, Mad Cow Disease, Ebola, West Nile, and Zika. Before that, there was Polio, Spanish Flu, and on, and on…
    Do we forget we are talking about the passengers on that ship that are essentially innocent bystanders at the wrong place and the wrong time?
    We give lip service to compassion and caring, but both my wife (a nurse) and I are living through the “Leper by Association” existence.
    And we hear about “appreciation for healthcare providers,” but people avoid us “just in case.” Sometimes we are not given basic services.
    In India, Medical Residents came to their apartments to find their belongings outside, having been summarily evicted because they are perceived as high risk. Sometimes it feels like our national hysteria is not too far behind. We cannot lead our existence based upon our fears. Of course we take every precaution, but compassion at times requires a modicum of courage.

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