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

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.

Read more about the CDC testing mandate.

Review the CDC’s Frequently Asked Questions on COVID-19 Testing Requirements for Air Passengers Arriving in the U.S.

Note: Even passengers who have received a COVID-19 vaccine must comply with this requirement by providing proof of a negative COVID-19 test or documentation demonstrating recovery from COVID-19.

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.

Download the sample letter in Word format.

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.

Open this map in a new browser window.

Operators are reminded to check NOTAMs prior to flight.

State Directives

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.

Review the COVID-19 restrictions by state.

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.

Review FAA Information for Airport Sponsors Considering COVID-19 Restrictions and Accommodations (Updated April 4, 2020

Review FAA Considerations for State, Local, and Territorial COVID-19 Restrictions That Impact Air Transportation

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

European Commission Bulletin: COVID-19: Temporary Restriction on Non-Essential Travel to the EU

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.

Review the U.S. Department of State – Bureau of Consular Affairs Information.

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.

Learn more about the State Department announcement.

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.

Review the CDC order: Requirement for Persons to Wear Mask While on Conveyances and at Transportation Hubs

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.

Review SAFO 20009 – May 25 – COVID-19: Updated Interim Occupational Health and Safety Guidance for Air Carriers and Crews

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.

Review the FAA guidance on post-vaccine crew duties.

Be Prepared

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.

Resources

May 14, 2021 – CDC and TSA Joint Statement: Mask Mandate On Public Transportation Remains in Effect

May 14, 2021 – US DOT Statement on Wearing Masks While Traveling

Jan. 29, 2021 – CDC Order: Requirement for Persons to Wear Mask While on Conveyances and at Transportation Hubs

Dec. 21, 2020 – FAA Exemption 18510D – Grace Month Grant for 135 Operators

Dec. 21, 2020 – FAA Exemption 18685 – Extends the timeframe for a check airman to conduct a proficiency or competency check

Sept. 11, 2020 – CBP Carrier Liaison Program Notice: Notification of Termination of Arrival Restrictions Applicable to Certain Flights

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

May 11, 2020 – SAFO 20009 – Rev 1 – COVID-19: Updated Interim Occupational Health and Safety Guidance for Air Carriers and Crews

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

March 11, 2020 – White House Proclamation: Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Certain Additional Persons Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting 2019 Novel Coronavirus

CDC’s Coronavirus Disease 2019 Website

CDC: Interim Guidance for Airlines and Airline Crew

CDC: Aircrew Safety and Health

CDC Air Travel, Yellow Book: Advice for Air Crews

CDC: Preventing Spread of Disease on Commercial Aircraft

World Health Organization (WHO) Coronavirus Disease 2019 Website

WHO Online Course: Emerging respiratory viruses, including COVID-19 – methods for detection, prevention, response and control

WHO: Guide to Hygiene and Sanitation in Aviation

FAA SAFO 20001: 2019 Novel Coronavirus: Interim Health Guidance for Air Carrier and Crews

International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO): Managing Communicable Disease in Aviation

International Air Transport Association (IATA): Air Transport & Communicable Diseases

IATA: Suspected Communicable Disease Guidelines for Cabin Crew

NBAA Flight Plan Podcast: What Do Business Aircraft Operators Need to Know About Coronavirus?