Airlines told to enforce French Covid-19 border rules

The government has threatened sanctions for airlines that allow passengers to break rules for travel to France from outside the EU 

2 February 2021
A woman in a mask waiting at the airport. Airlines told to enforce French Covid-19 border closureMinisters have said airlines must turn away passengers who are not travelling for valid reasons
By Joanna York

Ministers in France are increasing pressure on airlines to enforce the Covid-19 travel rules restricting travel from outside the European Union, which have been in place since Monday, February 1.

Under the new rules, French borders are closed to all travellers from outside the European Union, except those who must travel for one of a list of specific urgent health, professional or family reasons. 

Read more: The 21 essential reasons non-EU travellers can enter France

The travel rules will be extended this week to apply to visitors travelling from French overseas territories to mainland France.

Sanctions for airlines that do not check reasons for travel

Junior European Affairs Minister Clément Beaune told radio network France Inter that airlines would be held accountable for enforcing the travel rules. 

Suspensions are likely for airlines that do not comply. Ethiopian Airlines was previously suspended from operating in France for four days (January 28-31) for not properly verifying the results of PCR tests required for travellers entering the country. 

From now on, Mr Beaune said, the onus would be on airlines to make sure travellers had a valid PCR test and to check that they were travelling for valid reasons. He suggested airlines tell passengers: “If your reason is not urgent, you cannot get on the plane.” 

Mr Beaune said: “Without a doubt, this week we will suspend more flights from airline companies.”


Border police to increase checks

Government spokesperson Gabriel Attal reinforced this message. Speaking to news source FranceInfo he said: “There are airlines that have been called in and have received warnings, and we will verify in the coming days that they are following the rules. If that isn’t the case, there will be other sanctions taken against airlines.”

A source has since told AFP that a double-check system in airports is likely, carried out by airlines and border police (PAF).

Entry checks by the PAF, which normally take a few seconds, may be increased to five or 10 minutes, in order to check that travellers’ reasons for entering France really are urgent and permitted. The PAF may also ask for supporting documents to prove reasons for travel.

AFP journalists present at Roissy airport, near Paris, on Monday morning said around 300 passengers had also been prevented by border police from getting on planes to leave France.

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