Boeing, airlines’ shares are falling as new Covid variant spurs travel curbs

Passengers wearing protective face masks walk through the International Arrivals Hall upon arrival at Terminal 2 at London Heathrow Airport.

Simon Dawson | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Boeing and other travel stocks fell in pre-market trading on Friday after several European and Asian countries announced new travel restrictions from southern Africa due to a new Covid variant.

Britain said on Thursday it would temporarily suspend flights from South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Botswana. France and Italy announced access restrictions from the region. The European Commission recommended a break in travel between the EU and southern Africa.

The new restrictions highlight how quickly officials can restrict travel as new variants of Covid-19 are discovered. The latest rules were issued, just as many airlines and aircraft manufacturers such as Boeing were optimistic about a recovery in travel demand.

Travel and space stocks fell more than wider market on Friday. Boeing shares fell more than 6% in pre-market trading while Delta Air Lines fell 7% and United Airlines fell 8 pct. American Airlines fell almost 8 per cent. Giant hotel Hilton fell 5% before the open market.

“Following the latest announcement from the Minister of Health, we are working through plans for our customers and colleagues currently in South Africa and those who will be traveling from the UK in the coming days,” British Airways, an American Airlines partner, said in a statement. The carrier said it would contact customers affected by the changes.

Delta’s transatlantic partner, Virgin Atlantic, said it would have to cancel flights from Johannesburg from Friday to early Sunday due to the new UK rules.

The State Department and the White House did not immediately comment on potential travel restrictions to the United States

On November 8, the Biden administration lifted a broad pandemic travel ban for most non-citizens visiting from more than 30 countries, including the UK, EU, South Africa and Brazil.

Although domestic travel had largely recovered from early pandemic shutdowns, international travel remained a missing piece in airline recovery.

On Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving in the United States and generally one of the busiest travel days of the year, the Transportation Security Administration screened more than 2.3 million people. It was the highest since February 2020, yet still 12% below the same day in 2019.

CNBC’s Matt Clinch contributed to this article.

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