Airline stocks fell sharply Monday amid chaos and confusion at airports worldwide as U.S. President Donald Trump held firm on a ban on travellers from seven Muslim-majority countries. Investors fear his actions will lead to more restrictions on flights, while also keeping unaffected travellers at home.
The negative global reaction to the ban added uncertainty across the travel industry as consumers took to social media, declaring an intention to boycott travel to the United States and urging others to do the same.
Travel agencies across Canada say there has been no noticeable change in travel booking to the United States since Mr. Trump's executive order came down on Friday, but many noted that it's too soon to tell the future impact on travel plans.
On Monday, Mr. Trump defended his decision, which sets new barriers to entry for people from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and Libya, as a security measure. Meantime, some airline stocks plunged.
Air Canada and WestJet shares each fell about 2 per cent on Monday. American Airlines stock fell the most among major North American carriers – as much as 6.6 per cent. Delta Air Lines slid 4 per cent.
A computer failure that forced Delta Air Lines Inc. to cancel some flights on Sunday and Monday also fuelled concerns about airline risks, said Jim Corridore of CFRA Research, according to Bloomberg News.
"The travel ban is not likely to impact demand much, as not many people travel to/from the affected countries," he said in a report. "However, these issues together raise risks related to airlines."
Air Canada said Mr. Trump's order is expected to affect "only a very small handful of our passengers" and has waived change fees for those affected.
"Our operations are running normally," the airline said in a statement.
A WestJet spokesperson said, "it is too early and too fluid a situation to determine what impact, if any, the order will have on general travel to the U.S."
Some Canadian travellers unaffected by the ban are considering changing their travel plans to the U.S. on principle.
Canadian pollster David Coletto, chief executive officer of Abacus Data, said he felt sick to his stomach watching the news over the weekend and is considering whether to cancel future travel to the U.S. as a form of protest.
Mr. Coletto said he will likely scrap his plans to attend a polling conference in New Orleans. On social media, he has used the #boycottUSA hashtag that has been invoked by people around the world in response to Mr. Trump's actions.
"As a pollster, I rarely make my personal views known," he said. "But what happened this weekend kind of pushed me over the edge."
Mr. Coletto said the U.S. government should know that policy decisions carry implications and a decline in tourism revenue could influence members of Congress.
"My hope is that that would put pressure on the President. The Congress could act and be a check on him," he said. "I think that would be the end goal of a lot of these kinds of movements."
The Association of Canadian Travel Agencies says it hasn't noticed any volume of travellers requesting to cancel trips that have already been booked to U.S. destinations since Friday.
"It is still to early to say if anyone planning to visit the U.S. over the next year will avoid U.S. destinations in protest or due to inconveniences, and whether it will be a high enough volume to affect booking trends," Marco Pozzobon, director of communications, said in an e-mail.
"Canada is in peak travel season and for Canadians going south to warmer climates during the winter months our members do not expect to see any cancellation trends develop. However, the protests within the U.S. airports as witnessed over the weekend can impact travellers to and from the destination."
He also said Canada may benefit from people not wanting to travel to the U.S., at least in the short term. That includes Canadians choosing to vacation at home, or international travellers coming to Canada instead of the U.S.
With reports from Bill Curry, Greg Keenan and Bloomberg News