Wall Street Journal
By Robert Wall
February 8, 2017
BRUSSELS—The chief executive of Deutsche Lufthansa AG, one of Europe’s biggest airlines serving the U.S., Wednesday voiced concern about the Trump administration’s efforts to tighten immigration rules, joining a growing chorus of company executives opposing the steps.
The move sparked confusion at airports as airlines tried to hastily comply with the new U.S. rules. But the biggest concern wasn’t the disruption it had caused to air travel but that such restrictions didn’t reflect western values, CEO Carsten Spohr said.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s Jan. 27 executive order on immigration and refugees imposed a 90-day ban on citizens of Sudan, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Iran, Iraq and Yemen from entering the U.S. and imposed other limits. The move created confusion among airlines globally as they tried to figure out what passengers and crew would be allowed to enter the U.S.
Airlines were forced to deny boarding to booked passengers to comply with U.S. law. Carriers also pulled some employees from the affected countries from serving on U.S.-bound flights.
It also has triggered a backlash among company officials opposed to the move affecting the seven majority Muslim countries. The White House said it took the action to counter the risk of terrorism.
Last week Joe Kaeser, CEO of Siemens AG, one of the biggest foreign corporate investors in the U.S., said he was worried by the U.S. move. American Airlines Group Inc.Doug Parker previously called the policy “divisive.”
A federal judge in Seattle on Friday issued a ruling that temporarily blocks the directive. Airlines responded by resuming flying passengers who had been blocked under the ban. An appeals court Tuesday heard arguments about whether to reinstate the travel ban. A ruling is expected this week.
Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly Tuesday told U.S. lawmakers the travel ban was rolled out too hastily.
Mr. Spohr said that even though more lead time to introduce the new immigration rules would have been welcomed, airlines could cope with such changes. “We would appreciate if the changes would not have occurred in the first place,” he said.
European airline executives, speaking at a meeting of the industry lobby group Airlines for Europe, meanwhile said they were sanguine about Mr. Trump’s “America first” advocacy.
The open skies agreement between the U.S. and Europe, which liberalized market access, has benefited customers, said Willie Walsh, CEO of British Airways parent International Consolidated Airlines Group SA. “I don’t think anybody wants to see that reversed.”
Air France-KLM SA CEO Jean-Marc Janaillac added that the agreement also benefited U.S. carriers.
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