Effective February 1st, France has suspended all non-essential travel to and from outside the European Union. The French government has also threatened to sanction airlines that allow passengers from outside of the EU to dodge COVID-19 related rules. These can lead to temporary or definitive bans on landing and taking off at French airports.
Carriers’ responsibility to turn non-essential travelers away
A guest on the French radio network France Inter, Junior European Affairs Minister Clément Beaune, said yesterday that airlines who fail to comply with the new, strict measures would be “held accountable.” The sanctions would include temporary but also definitive bans from operating to French airports.
Monsieur Beaune was not impressed by how some carriers had handled the situation thus far,
“Some airlines have accepted fake tests, or have not even checked at all. Several companies have been summoned to the Ministry of Transport,” he said in the interview.
He further stated that the responsibility would now lie with airlines not only to check the validity of PCR tests but to tell people that they could not travel unless they had urgent reasons to do so. Furthermore, he said he was convinced that several flights would be suspended in the coming week.
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.@CBeaune : "Certaines compagnies aériennes acceptaient de faux tests, voire ne faisaient pas du tout de contrôle, plusieurs compagnies ont été convoquées par le ministère des Transports" #frontières #Covid-19 #le79Inter pic.twitter.com/BWWvCyWboL
— France Inter (@franceinter) February 1, 2021
There was no direct mention of which specific carriers have been castigated by the French authorities. However, Ethiopian Airlines has previously been suspended from operating flights to France between January 28th and 31st. This was because of failure to check the test results of travelers properly.
Calling for a strengthening of EU border rules
According to Le Journal de L’Aviation, a government spokesperson has also called for a Europe-wide “strengthening of border rules” and “sanctions against airlines” outside the EU if they do not adequately perform the required pre-departure checks.
It is yet unclear exactly how airlines are to enforce essential-only travel. Meanwhile, France has an official list of reasons why a non-EU citizen is allowed to enter the country. This includes returning home, transiting for less than 24 hours, studies, or diplomatic assignments, among others, but excludes things such as owning a home in France or visiting a sick relative.
Fake tests on the black market
While carriers may on occasion have been lax with enforcing pre-departure checks, it is uncertain if they can be held responsible for authenticating test certificates. While the motive behind such actions is questionable, there have been several reports of people faking negative test certificates to be allowed to travel.
If it were a financial matter, that would be one thing, but fake negative PCR-results can reportedly go for anywhere between $100 and $200. In other instances, the integrity of operations by entire testing facilities have been put under question, which countries have tried to solve by listing accepted test providers.
What do you think of France’s new tough travel restrictions? Can airlines be held accountable for the validity of PCR tests and passengers’ reasons for travel? Let us know in the comments.