Updated May 27, 2021
On Jan. 30, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that the outbreak of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC), and, on March 11, 2020, WHO characterized the outbreak of COVID-19 as a pandemic.
The evolving situation around the globe also highlights the importance of proper guidance and resources to assist in planning domestic and international operations in the months ahead. The information below reflects guidance from US government agencies for operating restrictions and precautionary procedures that should be observed for travel to, from, or within each region of the world.
- U.S. Arrival Restrictions
- FAA ATC Facilities Affected by COVID-19
- State Directives
- FAA Guidance for Airport Sponsors and Local Authorities
- Travel Restrictions to Europe
- Global Travel Restrictions
- FAA and CDC Passenger Precautions
- FAA and CDC Crew Precautions
- Be Prepared
U.S. Arrival Restrictions
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has published an order requiring pre-departure COVID-19 testing for all passengers arriving to the U.S. from international locations. Passengers must be tested no more than three days prior to their departure and must provide proof of the negative result or documentation of having recovered from COVID-19 to the aircraft operator.
Crew members are exempt from this requirement when acting in an official capacity or deadheading. Operators may print and provide crews a letter to use as proof of their exemption when deadheading on other air carriers.
FAA ATC Facilities Affected by COVID-19
Review the latest information about FAA Air Traffic Control facilities affected by COVID-19. This map will be updated every evening by 7 p.m. EDT and throughout the day, based on the nature of developments. The information presented is preliminary and subject to change.
U.S. State Governors have implemented a variety of measures in response to COVID-19 infections in their states. These state-based restrictions change frequently and usually do not appear in FAA NOTAMS, so operators should review each state’s published guidance for the latest information.
FAA Guidance for Airport Sponsors and Local Authorities
In response to efforts of local authorities to limit access to airports during the COVID-19 crisis, the FAA issued the following guidance to airport sponsors. “The FAA’s primary concern is that federally obligated airports remain safe and open to the traveling public and aircraft. Particularly during this public health emergency, airports play an essential role. The FAA continues to expect all airports to operate safely and to stay open.”
Aircraft operators should be aware that in most cases local authorities do not have jurisdiction to close or restrict aeronautical activity at federally obligated airports without direct approval from the FAA. As expressed in the guidance, the FAA is approaching these requests on a case-by-case basis.
NBAA has long worked to maintain access to airports and airspace for general aviation, a vital lifeline in times of crisis, and to prevent a patchwork of local policies as some elected officials take hasty actions that exceed their authority.
Travel Restrictions to Europe
On March 16, 2020, the European Commission recommended the EU member states apply a temporary restriction of non-essential travel from third countries into the Schengen area for 30 days. Travel by U.S. citizens to Europe would largely be prohibited during this restriction.
The temporary travel restriction would exempt nationals of all EU member states and Schengen region for the purposes of returning to their homes. This exemption would also apply to:
- all EU citizens and citizens of the Schengen Associated States, and their family members
- third-country nationals who are long-term residents under the Long-term Residence Directive and persons deriving their right to reside from other EU Directives or national law or who hold national long-term visas
Global Travel Restrictions
Operators seeking the latest updates for flying to a particular foreign destination can find the most recent information from the U.S. Department of State. Each embassy is providing continuous updates on restrictions, practices, and travel bans.
The U.S. State Department determined travel by pilots and aircrew to the U.S. for the purposes of training or aircraft pickup, delivery or maintenance will qualify under the national interest exemption, a provision strongly supported by NBAA. Accordingly, individuals traveling on B-1/B-2, B-1 or M-1 visas, or through the Visa Waiver Program, are eligible to enter the U.S for these purposes.
FAA and CDC Passenger Precautions
Passengers on all forms of public transportation into, within or outside of the U.S., including charter operations and at transportation hubs including FBOs, must wear face masks, according to a Jan. 29, 2021, order from the DC. Private conveyances for personal, non-commercial use are exempt from the rule, meaning passengers of private Part 91 operations are not required to comply.
Anyone on layover should stay in their hotel rooms to the extent possible, limit their activities in public, and practice social distancing. Social distancing means avoiding crowded places, not going to mass gatherings and generally staying about 6 feet from others, when possible.
Traveling individuals should also pay attention to their health at all times and remain in communication with their employer’s occupational health program. If anyone develops a fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, they should immediately self-isolate and be excluded from work on flights until cleared by public health authorities.
FAA and CDC Crew Precautions
Crew members with high-risk exposures to COVID-19 may also need to be excluded from work until no longer at risk for becoming infectious. A person is considered high-risk if exposed to a sick household member or intimate partner, or providing care in a household to a person with a confirmed case of COVID-19.
The Federal Air Surgeon determined that FAA medical certificate holders may not act as pilot in command, or in any other capacity as a required flight crew member, for 48 hours after each dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. The Federal Air Surgeon made this determination after evaluation of available medical information about these COVID-19 vaccines and potential side effects.
Proper planning begins with conducting a risk profile of your intended destination, including any current issues at the location, such as labor strikes, political unrest, pandemics or extreme weather. If the risk profile indicates that it is safe to travel to the locale but that there is the potential for danger, establish plans for performing an extraction or diversion.
“Use all of the tools available to you, including third-party service providers, NBAA Air Mail groups and onsite handlers to get local information,” recommends Kellie Rittenhouse, director of aviation at Hangar Management. “Continue to evaluate the conditions before and during the trip.”
Also, different scenarios call for different preparations and risk management. An emergency departure due to civil unrest or a political coup will require different plans than an emergency departure from a developing nation due to a medical concern of a crew member or passenger.
Regardless of what unique requirements your operation may have, experts advise that all travelers should notify the U.S. embassy in the destination country of their travel plans. This includes identifying where you are staying locally and how the embassy can contact you while in state. Using the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) program to convey this information enables the local U.S. embassy or consulate to contact registered U.S. citizens and nationals in the event of an emergency and offer assistance in certain circumstances.
In extreme scenarios, consider sending an additional qualified pilot along on a trip. Pilot illness or injury puts all passengers and crew members at risk and potentially makes the aircraft a useless asset.
May 14, 2021 – US DOT Statement on Wearing Masks While Traveling
Dec. 21, 2020 – FAA Exemption 18510D – Grace Month Grant for 135 Operators
July 30, 2020 – FAA Exemption 18509B – No Touch Grant for 135 Operators
July 30, 2020 – FAA Exemption 18510B – Grace Month Grant for 135 Operators
May 28, 2020 – Review the DHS Federal Register Notice 2020–11576
March 13, 2020 – Review the DHS Federal Register Notice 2020-06217
March 19, 2020 – U.S. CBP Carrier Liaison Program: Clarification for Boarding Crew
March 13, 2020 – U.S. CBP Carrier Liaison Program March 13, 2020, Bulletin
March 13, 2020 – DHS Federal Register Notice 2020-05606