Donald Trump’s travel ban impacting on airline operations

Emirates changes staff rosters on flights after measures imposed on Muslim-majority nations

Rafik Assi (centre) and his daughters Mirna (left) and Malak attend a rally in Dearborn, Michigan against a temporary travel ban signed by US president Donald Trump. Photograph: Rebecca Cook/Reuters.

Rafik Assi (centre) and his daughters Mirna (left) and Malak attend a rally in Dearborn, Michigan against a temporary travel ban signed by US president Donald Trump. Photograph: Rebecca Cook/Reuters.


Emirates airline has changed pilot and flight attendant rosters on flights to the US following the sudden travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries, highlighting the challenges facing airlines trying to deal with US president Donald Trump’s new rules.

The world’s largest long-haul carrier said it had made “the necessary adjustments to our crewing, to comply with the latest requirements,” an Emirates spokeswoman said. She added that US flights continued to operate to schedule.

Mr Trump on Friday suspended the entry of people from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. The decision caught airlines off guard, according to the International Air Transport Association.

“I cannot think of anything comparable. This brings a mix of administrative confusion, impact and uncertainty for many travellers as well as practical operational headaches and complexities for airlines in planning their flight programmes,” independent aviation consultant John Strickland said.

The ban applies to pilots and flight attendants from the seven countries, even though all flight crew who are not US citizens already need a special visa to enter the country.


Nicoley Baublies, from the German cabin crew union UFO, said the move was very unusual and meant uncertainty for airlines in terms of planning.

Lufthansa has always ensured it has very diverse crews, with staff of different nationalities and that means that we are for the first time in decades having to look at where people come from,” he said at Frankfurt airport.

A spokesman for Lufthansa said on Sunday it was too early to comment on the effects of the order but that airlines and passengers were required to follow the new rules.

Another Emirates spokeswoman said the impact of the ban on operations would be minimal. The airline employs over 23,000 flight attendants and about 4,000 pilots from around the world, including the United States, Europe and the Middle East.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Etihad Airways of Abu Dhabi said the airline had “taken steps to ensure there will be no issues for flights departing over the coming weeks.”

Japan Airlines (JAL) on Monday said it had begun screening passengers from the countries affected by Mr Trump’s travel ban before their departure for the United States.

JAL officials would contact the US Customs and Border Protection agency to confirm whether passengers would be allowed entry, a spokesman for the carrier said.

It is unclear if the ban applies to dual nationals - those who hold one passport from a country on the list and another from a non-US country that is not.

Dual nationals

Etihad said on its website that dual citizens could travel to the US using their non-banned passport. IATA has told its members that the ban does not apply to dual nationals if they have a passport not on the list, according to an email seen by Reuters. However, it has been reported, quoting State Department officials, that dual nationals were banned.

US officials said on Sunday holders of green cards need to check with a US consulate and will be cleared on a case by case basis.

On Sunday, IATA sent another email to member airlines asking for examples of Green Card holders being denied boarding. It also said it was seeking more information from authorities in Washington.

Mr Baublies said the uncertainty over the rules was not helping. “Trump reacts in 140 characters, we don’t know what it means - for people with the wrong entries in their passports or with dual nationality or married to someone from one of the countries affected, are they allowed to travel?”

There are also concerns the restrictions could dampen travel demand.

“Ultimately this could feed through to the role airlines play in the global economy in supporting business and tourism due to as yet unquantifiable impacts on demand & cost,” Mr Strickland said.