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A surprising group affected by Trump's travel ban: airline crews

(Photo: Emirates)

On Jan. 27, President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order issuing a travel ban on seven predominantly-Muslim countries. The action ignited large protests at airports around the United States, as refugees and citizens on incoming flights were detained at airports or sent back to their countries.

The ban on refugees is expected to last 120 days, and suspends entry of citizens from Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen for 90 days. Refugees from Syria have been blocked from entering indefinitely.

One unexpected group of victims is airline flight crews, some of which are international citizens who have to attain Crewmember Visas before working for an international airline in the US. Up until now, that visa was enough to legally enter the US. Now, if a crew member holds a passport for one of the banned countries, it is unclear if they will be able to clear customs after landing at a US-based airport. According to the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA-CWA), which has United Airlines (UAL), Alaska Airlines (ALK) and Hawaiian Airlines (HA) in its union, the ban has already had a negative effect on this community of workers.

“I can confirm that this has impacted crew in the US. It will impact them economically, as well,” says Taylor Garland, spokesperson for the AFA-CWA. “It’s total chaos in the workplace because there was no implementation process. There seems to be no regard for the impact on lives and families.”

Garland told Yahoo Finance that we can’t yet see the “full ramifications of this executive order,” but so far a few airlines have taken bold action to protect their employees. Reuters reports that Emirates adjusted which staff to put on US-bound flights in order to comply with Trump’s ban.

The Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways also told Reuters that it has “taken steps to ensure there will be no issues for flights departing over the coming weeks.”

When it comes to US carriers, Delta says it’s working with government officials to understand how the travel ban will impact the company’s employees. “We are doing all that we can to assist our people and their families who may be impacted by this executive order,” the airline said in an email to Yahoo Finance.

American Airlines and United could not be reached for comment.

The International Air Transport Association, which works with 265 airlines to facilitate the free movement of travel and people across borders, says airlines are still trying to figure out what the travel ban means for their employees — because they simply didn’t know the new restrictions were coming.

“[The ban] placed additional burdens on airlines to comply with unclear requirements, to bear implementation costs and to face potential penalties for non-compliance,” the IATA said in a statement on their website. “We urge all governments to provide sufficient advance coordination of changes in entry requirements so that travelers can clearly understand them and airlines can efficiently implement them.​”

On Monday, a Department of Homeland Security official told ABC news that there were no more travelers detained at US airports.