Airlines allow Trump’s barred passengers on US-bound flights

WASHINGTON — Many international airlines are allowing nationals of seven Muslim-majority countries hit with President Donald Trump’s travel ban to board US-bound flights after a federal judge blocked the controversial ban nationwide Friday.

US Customs and Border Protection informed major American airlines on a conference call late Friday that it was “back to business as usual,” effective immediately, an airline executive told CNN.

The government was in the process of reinstating visas, the executive said, adding that airlines would start removing travel alerts from their websites and getting messages out to customers to notify them of the change.

The relevant agencies have given no public explanation of how they will abide by the judge’s ruling.

Trump signed an executive order January 27 temporarily barring citizens from Yemen, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Iraq from entering the country. The move immediately prompted a slew of legal challenges.

Emirates Airlines, Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways, major operators that connect the Middle East to the United States, said Saturday they would allow citizens of the affected nations on their US-bound flights. Emirates Airlines and Qatar Airways said those presenting a valid, unexpired visa or green card would also be allowed to board.

Air France also said it would accept passengers from the seven countries.

“Air France takes note of the decision of the American courts to suspend the presidential decree of 27 January 2017 prohibiting entry into the US for citizens of seven countries,” the airline said.

“Consequently, and subject to satisfying the conditions of entry into the United States, as from today Air France will accept passengers from the countries concerned on its flights to the US.”

Germany’s largest carrier, Lufthansa, made a similar announcement but warned that “short-notice changes to the immigration regulations may occur at any time.”

No rush to the US

The travel ban has caused confusion in many countries, raising questions of whether people with dual nationality would still be barred from entering the country.

It first appeared that the Trump administration would strike deals country by country, but the Department of Homeland Security later clarified that the ban did not apply to dual nationals with passports from countries not on the list.

People traveling on diplomatic, NATO or UN visas were also exempt from the ban.

Despite the judge’s ruling and airlines’ announcements that the ban was halted, there appeared to be no rush to the United States from the regional hubs connecting passengers from the Middle East.

Dubai International Airport was quiet and orderly Saturday afternoon as two flights departed for New York and Los Angeles, a CNN journalist there said.

Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport also was calm as flights departed as usual to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Atlanta, New York, Boston and Miami.

US District Judge James Robart, a George W. Bush appointee who presides in Washington state, temporarily stopped Trump’s travel ban Friday night.

The White House quickly responded, calling the order “outrageous” and vowing to appeal.

“At the earliest possible time, the Department of Justice intends to file an emergency stay of this outrageous order and defend the executive order of the President, which we believe is lawful and appropriate,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said in a statement.

The White House dropped the word “outrageous” minutes later in a second statement.