Some airlines board barred passengers after blow to Trump travel ban

Reuters , Saturday 4 Feb 2017

Behnam Partopour, a Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) student from Iran, is greeted by friends at Logan Airport after he cleared U.S. customs and immigration on an F1 student visa in Boston, Massachusetts. (Reuters)

Citizens of seven mainly Muslim countries banned from the United States by President Donald Trump can resume boarding U.S.-bound flights, several major airlines said on Saturday, after a Seattle judge blocked the executive order.

Qatar Airways was the first to say it would allow passengers from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen to fly to U.S. cities if they had valid documents.

Air France, Spain's Iberia and Germany's Lufthansa all followed suit after the federal judge's ruling, which the White House said it planned to appeal as soon as possible.

But the websites of two other major Gulf airlines, Etihad and Emirates, still carried notices informing passengers of Trump's original Jan. 27 order.

The travel ban, which Trump says is needed to protect the United States against Islamist militants, sparked travel chaos around the world and condemnation by rights groups who said it was racist and discriminatory.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection told airlines they could board travelers affected within hours of Friday's ruling, but budget airline Norwegian, which operates transatlantic flights including from London and Oslo, said many uncertainties remained about the legal position.

"It's still very unclear," spokeswoman Charlotte Holmbergh Jacobsson said. "We advise passengers to contact the U.S. embassy ... We have to follow the U.S. rules."

In Cairo, aviation sources said Egypt Air and other airlines had told their sales offices of Friday's ruling and would allow people previously affected by the ban to book flights.

But for some who had changed their travel plans following the ban, the order was not enough reassurance.

In Dubai, Tariq Laham, 32, and his Polish fiancee Natalia had scrapped plans to travel to the United States after they get married in July in Poland. Laham said the couple would not reverse their decision.

"It is just too risky," said Laham, a Syrian who works as a director of commercial operations at a multinational technology company. "Every day you wake up and there is a new decision."

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