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U.S. to Lift COVID-19 Designated Airport Restriction

An American Airlines 787-8 prepares to load cargo in Chicago (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Ian McMurtry)

For nearly six months, travelers from certain COVID-19 restricted countries have only been able to enter the United States by passing through one of 15 designated airports and undergoing enhanced health screening.

The restriction currently applies to those arriving from, or with recent presence in, China (excluding the Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau), Iran, the Schengen region of Europe, the United Kingdom (excluding overseas territories outside of Europe), Ireland, and Brazil.

The 15 designated airports are Boston Logan International, Chicago O’Hare International, Dallas/Fort Worth International, Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Honolulu, Hawaii, Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International, George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Texas, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International, John F. Kennedy International, Los Angeles International, Miami International, Newark Liberty International, San Francisco International, Seattle-Tacoma International, and Washington-Dulles International.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has announced that starting on September 14, 2020, this restriction will be lifted. For many airports, this comes as welcome news. Philadelphia International Airport, for example, had recently started a change.org petition to obtain funneling status. Philadelphia is an important gateway to Europe and Philadelphia International Airport CEO Chellie Cameron released a detailed statement following the CDC’s announcement:

“On behalf of the PHL airport community, we would like to extend gratitude to the CDC, the White House, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Department of Homeland Security for their role in this decision that allows PHL to once again accept transatlantic flights and passengers. We are grateful for the support of numerous regional members of Congress, who served as PHL’s advocates in Washington on this issue.

We also appreciate the support and advocacy efforts of our regional business community, including the Chamber of Commerce of Greater Philadelphia, the British American Business Council of Greater Philadelphia, Visit Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau and the World Trade Center of Greater Philadelphia.

Pre-COVID-19, the international transatlantic travel demand that passed through the airport generated approximately $2 billion to the local economy per year. We know that it will take some time to reach that amount again, but American Airlines has committed to restoring PHL as its transatlantic hub and our foreign flag airline partners want a pathway to resume flights. With the restored status, we are poised to rebuild and restore these critical international links that serve as a major economic driver not only for Philadelphia but for surrounding counties in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland, too.

PHL and its stakeholders are facing multimillion-dollar budget deficits due to the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the aviation industry. Funneling status alone does not solve our financial troubles and further relief funding for the airport is still a necessity. However, being able to accept international flights will help us recover faster and may save jobs that were on the verge of elimination.”

The CDC’s announcement comes as the transmission of COVID-19 becomes more fully understood. According to the CDC, symptom-based screening is limited in its effectiveness as passengers could have no symptoms or only mild symptoms at the time of screening. The CDC will shift its strategy to more effective mitigation efforts that focus on the individual passenger including health education for passengers at various stages in their journey, voluntary collection of contact information, airport illness response, country-specific risk assessments, and self-monitoring recommendations (including staying home to the extent possible for 14 days for those arriving from high-risk destinations).

According to the CDC, this shift in focus to individual passenger risk throughout the air travel journey will allow the most effective protection of the American public’s health.

Jordan Green


  • Jordan Green

    Jordan joined the AG team in 2018 after attending AAviationDay in Philadelphia. He is actively pursuing his private pilot certificate and has been an aviation enthusiast since childhood. An attorney by trade, Jordan jokingly refers to himself as a “recovering litigator” and now focuses on subcontracts management. Jordan focuses his writing on innovations in commercial aviation, aviation history, and other interesting topics he feels are worthy of discussion in the community.

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