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Update: March 19, 2020
The State Department has released a Level 4 advisory on all international travel. The announcement instructs U.S. residents currently abroad to make a decision: Either return home soon or stay in place.
This is the highest possible advisory level, and means many Americans abroad may soon be scrambling to purchase one-way tickets home. We recommend using points and miles to book award flights for these return tickets, when possible.
As the Trump administration continues to roll out recommendations and restrictions to mitigate the coronavirus pandemic, it now seems like a matter of when (not if) a full-scale grounding of commercial U.S. flights will go into effect.
Rumors are swirling that such a ban could be announced as soon as this week, but nothing can be confirmed at this time. However, in this case, we would consider it wise to err on the side of caution and:
Cancel any travel through the rest of March.
Book return travel immediately if you are currently away from home.
The point is this: You don’t want to get caught traveling if a wider travel ban goes into effect. As the chaos following the recent ban on travel from Europe showed, trying to rebook at the same time as thousands of other passengers is an expensive and difficult process.
Again, we don’t know whether more travel bans will go into effect. Yet the writing is on the wall: We’re headed for further restrictions, which will likely include extreme limits on all air travel.
Check out our additional resources on navigating the coronavirus outbreak: How to prepare your house, mind and bank account Coronavirus travel guide: Choose your own (re)booking adventure Your guide to AmEx travel insurance