What will a Biden presidency mean for travel? Here’s what changes to expect

A new president is headed to the White House in January, and travelers should expect to see changes under a Joe Biden administration, from who’s allowed into the country to infrastructure improvements to help for laid-off and furloughed travel industry workers.

President-elect Joe Biden has committed to extending more relief to airline and hotel workers who have been furloughed or laid off as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. 

He’s pledged to reverse two policies of the Trump administration: a ban on travel to the United States from 13 mostly Muslim countries, and the decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change, which has a variety of implications for travel.

Biden is a big supporter of Amtrak and high-speed rail, and he’s pledged a big investment in roads, bridges, airports and transit systems. He also wants to shift transportation to cleaner fuels and electric power in an effort to reduce carbon pollution and mitigate the impacts of climate change. 

Here’s what’s likely coming when the new administration takes office:

Relief for workers

Airlines, Amtrak and hotels have laid off or furloughed thousands of workers as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. While Congress and President Donald Trump helped backstop them earlier this year through the CARES Act, that support ran out at the end of September.

Roger Dow, the president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, congratulated Biden and praised his support for additional travel industry relief. 

“The travel industry accounts for more than a third of overall U.S. unemployment, and policies to promote relief, recovery, and stimulus for travel businesses are integral to a U.S. economic turnaround,” Dow said in a statement.

The airlines have asked for $25 billion to avoid layoffs, and Amtrak requested $1.5 billion. They haven’t received it, though, mostly due to differences between the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Though the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA endorsed Biden and congratulated him on his victory, the union’s president said its members can’t wait until Biden takes office for relief.

“The inauguration is months away. Our health and economic crisis did not stop for the election, and workers cannot wait until January to feed our families or pay our bills,” said Sara Nelson. “Our country continues to set records for single-day COVID cases. Flight Attendants and working people do not have the luxury of waiting for a Biden Administration or new Congress to get relief.”

Travel restrictions

President-elect Biden has promised to immediately end the Trump administration’s temporary ban on travelers from 13 majority-Muslim countries. The administration cited national security concerns for enacting the restrictions, but critics called it the Muslim Ban.

Trump enacted the restriction on travelers from seven countries immediately after taking office in 2017. Those countries were Libya, Iran, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, North Korea and Venezuela.

Trump expanded the restrictions to six other countries in January: Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Nigeria, Sudan and Tanzania.

Civil liberties and Muslim-advocacy groups fought the restrictions in court. Ultimately, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld them in 2018 with a 5-4 vote.

“President-elect Biden has pledged to end the Muslim Ban on his first day in office, include Muslims at every level of his administration and address issues of racial and religious discrimination,” said Nihad Awad, the national executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, in a statement.

Infrastructure week

Trump promised a big infrastructure bill when he took office, but almost four years later, it hasn’t happened. Infrastructure is popular with state and local officials on both sides of the aisle, and infrastructure bills are among the few that get strong bipartisan support in Congress.

An infrastructure bill would mean improvements to roads, bridges, transit systems and airports. Biden has promised to make a “far-reaching” investment of $1.3 trillion over 10 years. That includes $50 billion in the first year to repair highway infrastructure.

He also promises to bring zero-emissions public transportation options to every city with more than 100,000 residents. That includes light rail and buses and infrastructure for pedestrians and bicyclists.

The Biden plan proposes to reduce emissions from transportation with electricity and clean fuels for trains, transit and school buses, ferries and passenger vehicles.

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