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American chief calls Trump’s ban ‘divisive’

American Airlines chief executive Doug Parker calls US president Donald Trump’s ban on citizens of seven countries entering the USA “divisive”, in a letter to employees.

“Reservations agents and airport teams have witnessed turmoil in our airports that shows how divisive this order can be,” he said in the letter dated 30 January on the protests that erupted at airports across the USA following an executive order on 27 January.

The order bars residents of seven majority-Muslim countries, including Iran, Iraq and Syria, from entering the US for 90 days, while the new administration evaluates its screening policies for travellers from these countries.

The comments are among the strongest yet from any airline executive on the ban.

Oscar Munoz, chief executive of United Airlines, emphasised in his own letter on the order to employees the carrier’s “responsibility” to bring people together no matter what “creed and conviction, background and belief”.

The Chicago-based carrier’s operations were unaffected by the protests over the weekend, he said on 30 January.

“This executive order does not affect the values that this company is built upon — those of diversity, inclusiveness and tolerance,” says Parker. “Treating each other with respect and dignity does not belong to a political party and transcends any law.”

Both Munoz and Parker say the airlines are complying with the executive order.

Delta Air Lines, which president Trump blamed for chaos at airports in a tweet on 30 January, says it is complying with the order. However, it has not commented on the matter of the ban itself.

The executive order came as a surprise to the airline industry. IATA told FlightGlobal yesterday that it was issued “without prior coordination or warning” and prompted “confusion” as a result.

“[It] placed additional burdens on airlines to comply with unclear requirements, to bear implementation costs and to face potential penalties for non-compliance,” says the global industry body. "We ask for early clarity from the US administration on the current situation.”

No US airline flies to any of the seven countries subjected to the ban, and no airlines from the seven countries operate to the USA.

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