The largest flight attendants union in the United States has slammed a decision by the Trump administration to slap a travel ban on much of Europe, calling it “irresponsible” and describing the decision as more to do with politics than public safety. Sara Nelson, leader of the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) which represents some 50,000 crew members at 20 airlines said the decision would have a huge impact on flight attendants.
Foreign nationals who have been in one of 26 European countries known as the Schengen zone (which allows unrestricted border-free movement) will be banned from entering the United States for at least 30-days.
The restrictions come into effect on Friday, although President Trump has not explicitly banned flights between Europe and the U.S. Many European governments and airlines are still evaluating the impact of the travel plan after it was announced without consultation or warning.
“The announcement by the President this evening of a thirty-day travel ban to Europe is irresponsible. Without any consultation with the industry, we don’t even know what this means,” Nelson said of President Trump’s Oval Office television address to the nation on Wednesday evening.
“This only creates more confusion and proves this is about politics, not public safety.”
Nelson said there was little point introducing a travel ban when the COVID-19 virus is already in the United States. The World Health Organisation (WHO) describes travel bans as “ineffective” and says they should only be introduced for a short period of time, at the very start of an outbreak and when the country introducing the ban has few international connections.
The WHO warns of the severe economic damage that travel restrictions can cause, although Trump says that trade between the United States and Europe will continue.
“It appears tonight’s announcement is an attempt to distract from the administration’s failure to adequately test for the virus, failure to contain the spread, suppression of advice from leading scientists, and failure to consult with stakeholders,” Nelson said of the administration’s initial reaction to the outbreak.
“We do not accept the false narrative of a “foreign virus” intended to stoke distrust among Americans, rather than focus on saving lives,” she continued.
Nelson is now calling on the U.S. government to protect and support the aviation industry and some analysts believe otherwise financially strong airlines may soon need bailouts if the travel bans continue for much longer.
“The United States of America has a long history of marshaling the resources, patriotism, ingenuity, and freedom of our nation to take on any challenge and lead the world. Aviation is a large part of this proud history,” she continued.
Nelson has long been a critic of the Trump administration and is a rising star in the U.S. labor movement. Her left-wing beliefs, powerful position and ability to utilize the media to push forward her agenda has led to Nelson being dubbed ‘the most powerful flight attendant in America’.