Well, it looks like Ethiopian Airlines has their work cut out for them…
The current state of cruise ships
While the US has banned cruises for the past few weeks, the reality is that there are still lots of ships out there, and most of them have hundreds of crew members onboard, and some even have passengers:
- There are a handful of cruise ships that still have passengers on them, after confirmed COVID-19 cases, which has been incredibly complicated in terms of finding somewhere to dock
- Given the temporary ban on cruise ships, there are 100+ ships just kind of idling around in US waters and at US ports, waiting for conditions to change
- Those 100+ ships have nearly 100,000 crew members; when the ban was first announced it seemed easier to just keep crews onboard so that operations could easily resume, especially when you consider that many cruise ship crews are from the other side of the planet (in particular, the Philippines)
US bans cruise ship passengers & crews from flights
With a new restriction from the Department of Homeland Security and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cruise ship passengers and crews arriving in the US are no longer allowed to board commercial flights from the US.
This follows a couple of incidents in recent days where airline crews refused to work flights when they found out that many of the passengers onboard were coming off cruise ships.
It’s being recommended that those coming off ships self quarantine for 14 days (even if they aren’t showing any symptoms), and then they have to either take a private flight, or arrange other transportation.
Ethiopian Airlines is going to be busy!
I’ve written about how Ethiopian Airlines has been operating several charters from the US, including:
Those are only a couple of examples, as these charters have continued. Ethiopian Airlines is operating these flights as charters for transporting cruise ship crews, and I imagine they’ll continue to be busy.
With cruise ship crews banned from US flights, and with nearly 100,000 crew members currently off the coast of the US, they’ll eventually have to fly back home.
The logistics of this seem like a nightmare. This doesn’t seem like that much of a roadblock for transporting cruise ship crews, given that there are hundreds of crew members, so chartering a plane might be the most economical option anyway.
But for those passengers still currently stuck on a cruise ship, this is going to be very challenging. For example, if your cruise arrives in Florida after being at sea for weeks, and you live in California, well… that seems like a fun adventure.
The reality though is that this is going to be really tough for airlines to enforce. It’s one thing if a cruise line books 100+ people on a flight, but if an individual decides to book a flight after a cruise, I’m not sure how exactly they’d enforce that…
Lastly, at this point I have to wonder how much merit there is to this — passengers aren’t disembarking from ships with positive COVID-19 cases. At this point they’ve all essentially been quarantining for a while. They’re at least getting some sort of screening upon arrival.
Are they really at this point any higher risk than someone who is boarding a flight in NYC without any sort of health screening?