January 23, 2022

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Boeing, airline stocks tumble as new Covid variant spurs travel curbs – CNBC

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Passengers, wearing protective face masks, walk through the international arrivals hall after arriving at Terminal 2 at London Heathrow Airport.

Simon Dawson | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Boeing and other travel stocks tumbled in premarket trading Friday after several European and Asian countries announced new travel restrictions from southern Africa because of a new Covid variant.

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

The new restrictions highlight how quickly officials can restrict travel as new variants of Covid-19 are detected. The latest rules were issued just as many airlines and aircraft manufacturers like Boeing were upbeat about a rebound in travel demand.

Travel and aerospace shares fell more than the broader market on Friday. Boeing shares were down more than 6% in premarket trading, while Delta Air Lines was down 7% and United Airlines fell 8%. American Airlines was off nearly 8%. Hotel giant Hilton was down 5% ahead of the market open.

“Following the latest announcement from the Health Secretary we’re working through plans for our customers and colleagues currently in South Africa and those due to travel 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 will have to cancel flights from Johannesburg from Friday to early Sunday because of the new UK rules.

The State Department and White House didn’t immediately comment on potential travel restrictions to the U.S.

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

Though domestic travel had largely recovered from early pandemic lockdowns, international travel remained a missing piece in airlines’ recovery.

On Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving in the U.S. and generally one of the busiest travel days of the year, the Transportation Security Administration screened more than 2.3 million people. That was the most since February 2020, though still 12% below the same day in 2019.

CNBC’s Matt Clinch contributed to this article.

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