Several airlines on Saturday gave the green light to passengers wanting to fly to the United States who come from countries hit by President Donald Trump’s travel ban after a US court suspended his order.
Seattle US district judge James Robart on Friday blocked Trump’s controversial ban on travellers from seven Muslim countries, prompting a furious president to condemn it as a “ridiculous” move which he would overturn.
Although some airlines said they were waiting to see how the situation develops, carriers including Air France, Qatar Airways, Lufthansa and Swiss Airways said they would carry nationals of the countries concerned if they have a valid visa.
Following the court ruling, US authorities Saturday suspended the travel ban.
“We have reversed the provisional revocation of visas,” a State Department spokesperson told AFP.
“Those individuals with visas that were not physically cancelled may now travel if the visa is otherwise valid,” the official said, while a complaint against Trump’s decree by Washington state’s attorney general Bob Ferguson is officially reviewed.
Ferguson said Friday the court’s suspension of Trump’s order meant “the constitution prevailed” as “no one is above the law -- not even the President”.
“No one is above the law, not even the President”
-- Bob Ferguson
Trump responded angrily, tweeting that “the opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!”
Among airlines confirming the green-lighting of passengers with valid visas, Air France told AFP that “since this morning we are applying with immediate effect the (US) judicial decision taken overnight. All passengers presenting themselves will embark once their papers are in order to travel to the United States.”
Several other airlines confirmed on their websites they would carry visa-holding passengers even before news emerged of the State Department statement.
An official at Cairo airport indicated on condition of anonymity that carriers had received notice from JFK airport in New York it was dropping application of Trump’s order for US-bound passengers with valid documentation following the court ruling suspending the presidential ban.
Trump last week issued a shock executive order banning for 90 days entry into the US by nationals of seven mainly Muslim countries -- Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen -- and all refugees for 120 days.
Trump’s move, which he justifies on security grounds, wrought havoc at airports across America, sparked protests and left countless people hoping to reach the United States in limbo.
“When a country is no longer able to say who can, and who cannot, come in & out, especially for reasons of safety &.security - big trouble!” Trump tweeted less than 12 hours after the court ruling was issued in Seattle.
He added that “certain Middle-Eastern countries agree with the ban. They know if certain people are allowed in it’s death & destruction!”
After the US court ruling, Swiss airline told AFP that “at the present time all passengers with valid travel documents can travel on any Swiss flights bound for the United States”.
The carrier said it was in touch with US Customs and Border Protection and “we shall respect strictly conditions of entry into US territory”.
Germany’s Lufthansa stated: “The United States federal court has blocked the travel ban to the USA with immediate effect. Visitors ... holding a valid immigrant or non-immigrant visa for the US are again allowed to travel to the USA”.
In Tehran, one travel agent advised Iranians wishing to fly to the USA to “take a place to any city this evening,” warning the repeal of the ban may not stand.
Some carriers, including Finnair, were waiting for official confirmation on where they stand, a spokesperson told AFP.
Low cost carrier Norwegian pointed to “uncertainties about US entry regulations” and advised passengers with questions to contact the US embassy for more information as “we have to follow the rules” on who may enter.
The State Department said Friday up to 60,000 people from the seven targeted countries had their visas cancelled in light of a ban which has caused international outrage.
A Justice Department attorney told a court hearing in Virginia as many as 100,000 visas had been revoked.