The U.S. State Department on March 19 advised U.S. citizens to avoid all international travel, and that those already abroad should return immediately or prepare to shelter in place. A series of executive actions by the White House have made international air travel more complicated, including for general aviation.
The global health advisory was the latest move by the federal government to slow the spread of the coronavirus that has sickened thousands worldwide, and among the most significant to date affecting travel.
“In countries where commercial departure options remain available, U.S. citizens who live in the United States should arrange for immediate return to the United States, unless they are prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite period,” the advisory states. “U.S. citizens who live abroad should avoid all international travel.”
Air travel had already been complicated by measures directing international arrivals to airports designated to conduct additional screening of passengers who recently visited certain countries.
While the new restrictions primarily impact scheduled airline flights, GA operations are not exempt.
Cargo flights and flights carrying only crewmembers were excluded from the new requirements, though that exclusion does not apply to GA aircraft whose passengers or crew have visited the designated areas within the preceding 14 days prior to entry. That list has been expanded to include people who spent time in the United Kingdom, Ireland, or any of the 26 nations that are part of Europe’s Schengen Area.
All flights carrying passengers or crew who have visited those designated areas within 14 days prior to entry must be cleared through designated airports “where enhanced public health services and protocols have been implemented.”
“Enhanced traveler arrival protocols are part of a layered approach used with other public health measures already in place to detect arriving travelers who are exhibiting overt signs of illness,” the notice states. “Related measures include reporting ill travelers identified by carriers during travel to appropriate public health officials for evaluation, and referring ill travelers arriving at a U.S. port of entry by CBP to appropriate public health officials in order to slow and prevent the introduction into, and transmission and spread of, communicable disease in the United States.”
The designated airports (including those newly designated) where the enhanced screening protocols are in place are:
U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents, their immediate family members, and some others are exempted from the new entry requirements; however, all GA pilots should carefully consider international travel during the global pandemic and expect further changes with little notice to federal requirements for customs clearance.
AOPA will update this story as new information becomes available, but it is recommended you visit cbp.gov for the most current information about customs procedures.