Turkey has announced new, strict measures on March 27th in an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus in the country. The government has imposed a travel ban on thirty cities and banned all international flights.
Banning of international flights
Middle East Eye reports that Turkey has canceled all international flights. This move comes as the virus continues to spread in the country. In addition, within its national borders, Turkey is only allowing travel with formal permission from local governors.
Turkish Airlines, given its already significantly reduced schedule and recent New York suspension, will be the hardest hit. And, these domestic reductions will also likely lead to domestic flight suspensions or else significant reductions.
Due to the overarching uncertainty of this pandemic, it is unclear as to how long this will last. Turkish Airlines will likely release some schedule updates soon that comply with this directive and may offer some clues to when it will be lifted.
However, this move is not unprecedented. Other countries have implemented halts on international flights in an effort to contain the virus. Unfortunately, this has left a number of people stuck in those respective countries. However, some airlines are operating repatriation flights. In the next few days, Turkish Airlines or other carriers could fly additional repatriation flights to take tourists home from Turkey and whilst bringing back Turkish citizens and residents from outside countries.
Airlines are already flying reduced schedules
Already, airlines are flying reduced schedules due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Health agencies and governments are shutting down nonessential travel. And, before that, plunging demand due to concerns about the spread of the virus led to some airlines suspending international flight schedules.
For the first time in a very long time, the new Istanbul Airport will likely appear as a ghost town. Although for those worried about the spread of the virus, the lack of transit and international travelers will likely offer some relief. However, for those whose jobs rely on travelers, such as tour operators and airport concession operators, this may deal an unfortunate economic blow.
I am supposed to fly to Turkey. What do I do?
First and foremost, be on the lookout for an announcement from your airline. It will likely take some time for airlines to devise a plan and comply with the governmental directive. Some airlines may give you a full refund while others will seek to issue a credit for future travel use.
If you are not scheduled to fly in the next 72 hours, airlines are asking you to hold off on calling. However, if you are scheduled to fly in the next 72 hours, it may be worth it to reach out to your airline for information on your flight and options to rebook or refund.