What is Essential vs Non-Essential Travel during the COVID-19 Outbreak? How will this affect Private Jet Travel?
March 20th, 2020 (updated 5/29/20) – Throughout the history of mankind, there haven’t been many times where travel was considered to be non-essential.
Traveling has been an essential part of our daily lives for centuries, from finding food, work, shelter, or salvation, to fighting or fleeing wars, and migrating away from disaster, famine, or pestilence.
It’s why the words travel and travail are only separated by a couple of vowels.
In fact, it wasn’t until 1841 when Thomas Cook, a Baptist minister who became the namesake of one of the world’s largest travel groups, created an 11-mile English excursion that created the birth of package tourism, and by extension, the creation of “non-essential travel”.
Nowadays, there are several forms of travel considered to be elective. Although many parts of personal and business travel are necessary, things like globetrotting tours, beachfront getaways, and Caribbean cruises are considered optional journeys.
Although many of us might consider these trips as non-essential, an overworked employee on the verge of breaking down may consider their trip as absolutely necessary.
What’s the difference between Essential & Nonessential Travel? Looking Back to Look Forward
That the term “Nonessential Travel” is even part of our current vocabulary shows how much travel has evolved within the past century.
We can look back to a little more than a decade ago during the H1N1 pandemic, when the CDC issued recommendations for non-essential travel to Mexico. During the spread of the outbreak, the CDC received reports of schools closing and implementing community-level social distancing measures to slow the spread of disease.
The World Health Organization (WHO) also released similar recommendations to limit non-essential travel to Mexico and practice social distancing.
Today, we face a similar set of circumstances with the COVID-19 outbreak on a much, much larger scale.
What is Considered Essential Travel?
This section will be updated frequently as the definition becomes more clear. Please check back for the latest information on how this will affect private charter flights.
Officially, the definition of essential travel varies by country. Previously, the State Department has defined it as “a personal decision” based on each traveler’s “circumstances.”
Asked to clarify what is considered essential travel, President Trump recently responded with “Well, I think essential is medical, we have military working together, we have industry working together, and again, it’s not affecting trade, so things like that. But just leisurely ‘let’s go to a restaurant and have dinner,’ which a lot of people do … we have ended on a temporary basis.”
This answer highlights the glaring lack of clarity from officials using the terms.
In order to gain a better idea of what may be considered essential travel over the coming weeks, we can take a look at California’s official list of “essential businesses” to better understand what may go in effect nationwide:
- Healthcare Operations and Essential Infrastructure
- Grocery stores, certified farmers’ markets, farm and produce stands, supermarkets, food banks, convenience stores, and other establishments engaged in the retail sale of canned food, dry goods, fresh fruits and vegetables, pet supplies, fresh meats, fish, and poultry, and any other household consumer products (such as cleaning and personal care products). This includes stores that sell groceries and also sell other non-grocery products, and products necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences
- Food cultivation, including farming, livestock, and fishing
- Businesses that provide food, shelter, and social services, and other necessities of life for economically disadvantaged or otherwise needy individuals
- Newspapers, television, radio, and other media services
- Gas stations and auto-supply, auto-repair, and related facilities
- Banks and related financial institutions
- Hardware stores
- Plumbers, electricians, exterminators, and other service providers who provide services that are necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences, Essential Activities, and Essential Businesses
- Businesses providing mailing and shipping services, including post office boxes
- Educational institutions—including public and private K-12 schools, colleges, and universities—for purposes of facilitating distance learning or performing essential functions, provided that social distancing of six-feet per person is maintained to the greatest extent possible
- Laundromats, dry cleaners, and laundry service providers
- Restaurants and other facilities that prepare and serve food, but only for delivery or carry out. Schools and other entities that typically provide free food services to students or members of the public may continue to do so under this Order on the condition that the food is provided to students or members of the public on a pick-up and take-away basis only. Schools and other entities that provide food services under this exemption shall not allow the food to be eaten at the site where it is provided, or at any other gathering site
- Businesses that supply products needed for people to work from home;
- Businesses that supply other essential businesses with the support or supplies necessary to operate;
- Businesses that ship or deliver groceries, food, goods or services directly to residences;
- Airlines, taxis, and other private transportation providers providing transportation services necessary for Essential Activities and other purposes expressly authorized in this Order
- Home-based care for seniors, adults, or children
- Residential facilities and shelters for seniors, adults, and children
- Professional services, such as legal or accounting services, when necessary to assist in compliance with legally mandated activities
- Childcare facilities providing services that enable employees exempted in this Order to work as allowed. To the extent possible, childcare facilities must operate under the following mandatory conditions:
- Childcare must be carried out in stable groups of 12 or fewer (“stable” means that the same 12 or fewer children are in the same group each day).
- Children shall not change from one group to another.
- If more than one group of children is cared for at one facility, each group shall be in a separate room. Groups shall not mix with each other.
- Childcare providers shall remain solely with one group of children.
COVID-19 Travel Restrictions
Here’s a look at the different restrictions being utilized around the world.
In the United States
A Presidential Proclamation was announced on March 11th, 2020 that restricts travel for all foreign nationals who have been in China, Iran, and certain European countries at any point during the 14 day’s prior to their scheduled travel to the United States. These countries include:
Austria, Belgium, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Iran, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.
This proclamation does not apply to U.S. citizens, legal permanent residents, nor their family members under the age of 21, and other individuals who are identified in the proclamation. Nor does it apply to cargo and economic shipping.
American passengers can return to the United States from these countries, however, they must return through one of following airports:
- Boston-Logan International Airport (BOS), Massachusetts
- Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD), Illinois
- Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), Texas
- Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW), Michigan
- Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL), Hawaii
- Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), Georgia
- John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), New York
- Los Angeles International Airport, (LAX), California
- Miami International Airport (MIA), Florida
- Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR), New Jersey
- San Francisco International Airport (SFO), California
- Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), Washington
- Washington-Dulles International Airport (IAD), Virginia
What is a “Shelter-in-Place” order?
Some nations including Italy, France, and Spain are taking larger measures including “lockdowns” and “shelter-in-place” orders to limit and contain the spread of COVID-19.
On March 17th, the San Francisco Bay Area implemented a “Shelter-in-Place” order, an unprecedented public health order requiring residents to stay at home except for essential needs.
This order, which was in effect through April 7th, states that residents may only leave their homes to get food, care for friends and relatives, exercise, seek necessary health care, and travel to essential jobs.
It’s the first sweeping lockdown in the United States, with nearly 7 million residents affected by the new rule.
Failure to comply is a misdemeanor offense, however, there is currently no requirement of proof that you’re allowed to be outside.
We expect the definition of “shelter-in-place” and lockdown orders to continually change as we attempt to mitigate the spread of Coronavirus.
How Will These Restrictions Effect Private Jet Travel?
As domestic air travel grinds to a halt, we have seen a massive increase in the number of private jet requests. Not only are private planes still fully-operational, but they provide far superior protection from exposure to other passengers, airport staff, and flight crew.
Moving forward, charter planes are expected to play a huge role in the pandemic response. Private flights are able to depart from smaller, less crowded airports while limiting potential exposure to the virus, and saving valuable time for humanitarian purposes.
The importance of private aviation is highlighted in California’s lockdown order, with private transportation providers able to continue offering the necessary services for essential travel.
If you need further clarification as to if your trip falls within essential travel, please email us with your trip information for clarification.