Transatlantic flights are allowed to resume at Philadelphia International Airport (PHL), following five months of restrictions on processing inbound passengers from Europe. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced today that travelers from restricted countries will no longer have to go through enhanced health screenings and temperature checks at designated airports effective Monday, Sept. 14.
The policy change marks the end of restrictions that went into place in March, when the COVID-19 crisis prompted the federal government to restrict international flights to 15 select airports in the United States. PHL was not designated as a screening or "funneling" airport, and was forced to end flights to its top European destinations. The pathway for a resumption of transatlantic travel will have a significant impact on the region’s business, industry and tourism sectors.
The CDC and other supporting federal government agencies have taken a new approach to air travel safety, focusing on efforts to partner with international organizations and develop a potential testing framework. The CDC’s recommended mitigation tactics can be found in their media release, and include passenger health education, electronic contact collection, country-specific risk assessments, potential testing, enhanced training for transportation partners and recommendations for enhanced monitoring and precautions.
PHL CEO Chellie Cameron shared the following statement in response to the news:
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 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.