The world is dealing with a health crisis, but also a connectivity crisis. Decades spent creating a globalized world, with global families is now in jeopardy, as vital transport links are cut. On Tuesday, France declared all air links outside of the Schengen Zone of Europe are halted, which means there’s no easy way in or out, even if you desperately need to.
Elisabeth Borne, the French Minister for Transport and Environment declared on French RTL Radio that there are now zero flights from France outside of the Schengen Zone. The Schengen Zone is a region within Europe which operates as one, with freedom to move across borders once inside the bloc.
The declaration means that for now, absolutely no long haul passenger flights are going in or out, cutting off ties between France and the UK, Africa, North America, Asia, South America, Pacific and beyond.
It’s not a policy against future flights, just a declaration that there currently are none. It’s a sobering reminder of the crippling effects to air travel brought on by the pandemic.
With the vast majority of repatriation flights complete, there’s hardly any demand, and any demand that does exist is hampered by strict quarantine and border restrictions. Still, it’s tough times for those with family or loved ones abroad, who may not be able to reach them in crisis, in the interim.
President Macron of France was one of the first leaders to offer early guidance on proposed dates for a return of French travel, offering September as a potential date. At the time, it seemed to be the least optimistic, but the outlook was quickly eclipsed by other Schengen zone nations.
Ministers in Italy and Spain, also members of Europe’s Schengen bloc both subsequently stated that outside travel wouldn’t likely return in 2020 at all, and perhaps not until the second quarter of 2021.
In theory, once emergency measures are eased, travel should be available at any time between all Schengen countries, which may complicate the sequence of reopening, particularly as clear a clear lack of communication across once friendly borders becomes increasingly evident.
Travelers seeking clarity are looking ahead to the April 22nd meeting of EU leaders with great hope for more concrete and unified plans to be laid out, even if they’re subject to change. In the interim, varied speculation by each country is confusing relief efforts.