SFO (KPIX 5) — Travelers in the Bay Area and around the world are scrambling to rearrange plans after President Trump announced a 30-day travel ban related to most of Europe to help stop the coronavirus.
Under the new order, only foreign nationals who have traveled to any of the 26 European countries with open border agreements will be banned from flying into the U.S.
American citizens and legal residents will still be allowed to fly from Europe, but they’ll be directed to limited airports where screening will take place.
COMPLETE COVERAGE: CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK
The ban will last 30 days and goes into effect starting at midnight Saturday. The United Kingdom was not included in the ban.
At San Francisco International Airport, it was much quieter than it typically is on a Thursday afternoon.
The direct impact of the coronavirus was plainly visible days before the travel ban takes effect.
Inside the international terminal at SFO was a ghost town. Ticket counters usually bustling with travelers were deserted.
The only people KPIX 5 cameras saw early Thursday morning were traveling to Hawaii.
“Yeah, there’s a concern, but I don’t know. We already bought the tickets, so we might as well just go all the way through,” said traveler Christopher Duart. “We actually bought Kleenex just to clean up the seats.”
The drop-off curb at the international terminal, typically a buzz of constant activity, was eerily quiet. But the waiting lots for rideshare drivers are full.
Rui DeLima has been an Uber driver for seven years, and says the longest he has every waited to get a passenger to pick up is an hour and 15 minutes.
On Thursday, he had already been waiting 2 hours, and the app said he was still 90th in line to pick up a customer.
“I’ve never seen it like this. Today is a record. That’s the worst day,” said DeLima.
Airline stocks were taking a beating on Thursday. British Airways stock was down 16 percent, while shares of American Airlines were down 17 percent.
United and Delta were down more than 20 percent. Norwegian Air announced it is temporarily laying off half its staff.
Last week, the International Air Transport Association estimated the coronavirus would wipe out $113 billion dollars in airline revenue worldwide, and that was before President Trump announced the travel ban from Europe.
Among the many employees at SFO — from baggage handlers to custodial staff to the various support personnel — there was widespread concern about job security.
Prospect, which manages wheelchairs for passengers, has cut hours by 25 percent.
Business at the Boudin Bakery at SFO is way down as well. There are simply no passengers, no customers coming through the terminals. Employee Geo Oreta said the company was asking people to volunteer to have their hours cut.
“That’s the first thing we did,” explained Oreta. “We asked for somebody who wants to go on vacation. Take a day off. That’s what we did.”
SFO officials says they are still waiting for airlines to adjust their schedules in response to the travel ban.
The affected countries amount to about 15 percent of the airport’s international flight schedule.
Americans who are currently in Europe are doing everything they can to get home quickly. That means waiting in very long lines.
“Definitely it has been a lot of uncertainty, which has caused a lot of like panic,” said Nathaly Erikson, a student in Spain from Indiana.
‘When we left California, everything was completely normal. And when we land we get bombarded with messages,” said American tourist Leo Leopoldo.
At Mineta International Airport, officials say they say they don’t have any direct flights to mainland Europe, only direct flights to the UK, which wont be affected by the ban.
But even prior to President Trump’s announcement, Mineta officials said they were already seeing a trending decrease in travel.
Their TSA screening checkpoints saw overall traffic down 18 percent in the first nine days of March, with each day reporting worse numbers than the day before.
Across the Bay at Oakland International Airport, officials said it was still too soon to see specific impacts from the ban.
Kiet Do contributed to this story.