AIRLINES reacted angrily on Monday to an abrupt change in U.S. immigration policy, saying they were struggling to enforce unclear rules, faced unexpected additional costs and were worried they could be fined if they get it wrong.
New U.S. President Donald Trump announced over the weekend a four-month hold on allowing refugees into the United States and temporarily barred travelers from Syria and six other Muslim-majority countries, provoking a worldwide backlash and protests at U.S. airports.
Global airlines association IATA, representing 265 airlines, said on Monday the order was issued without prior coordination or warning, causing confusion among travelers and its own members, who are now at the forefront of implementing the rules.
“It also placed additional burdens on airlines to comply with unclear requirements, to bear implementation costs and to face potential penalties for non-compliance,” it said in a statement, calling for more clarity and more notice in future.
One Gulf airline executive who declined to be named complained U.S. customs and border protection officials in the Gulf started notifying airlines and airports at the same time as the media reports came out. Budget carrier Norwegian Air Shuttle said it found out via media reports.
Other airlines were informed about the new rules in conference calls with U.S. authorities.
“It’s distressing that some of our passengers have to face these sudden changes,” Dutch airline KLM said on Monday after it stopped seven passengers from traveling on Saturday.
Trump took to Twitter on Monday to defend the abrupt order. “If the ban were announced with a one week notice, the ‘bad’ would rush into our country during that week,” he wrote.