New Zealand recently decided to go on full lockdown, meaning that all citizens excluding those who are essential workers have to remain at home. The drastic measures have also meant that many New Zealanders who are in the UK and wish to go home are stuck here. Air New Zealand’s latest announcement has said that they will be adding more domestic flights in the next 24 hours.
Emirates, Virgin, Qanta and many other essential airlines to New Zealanders wishing to travel home have also suspended flights.
However, for many people the flights are the least of their worries as they either can’t afford the air fares or can’t leave on short notice.
Express.co.uk spoke exclusively to a group of New Zealanders about the difficulties they have come across while trying to fly back home.
One woman travelled to the airport and was turned away, before then finding out that the second half of her flight was cancelled.
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She said: “I got to the airport and was turned away by Emirates, second half of my flight (Dubai to Auckland) was cancelled and no one notified me.
“As the UAE changed the rules a few hours prior no one was allowed to go through. I had no flat, no family here – lucky my amazing friend has taken me in for a few days while I sort out what the heck to do.”
Another woman was due to fly wth Etihad to Abu Dhabi then Sydney and then home to Auckland last night but arrived at Heathrow to find that her flight was cancelled.
She said: “We arrived early and ten minutes before check-in at Heathrow. Staff and Etihad crew came out and started asking people if they were UAE nationals.
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“Then told us only UAE nationals were getting on the flight. The flight was fully booked for 300 – they didn’t let 270 get on the plane, only 30 UAE nationals.
“There was no warning. No help. No suggestion of other flights. Tonnes of kiwis and Aussies stranded. People crying, families, elderly couples who were trying to get back.
“This was our second attempt to get home – before that we were booked with Air New Zealand to go through Singapore.
“We also tried to get out this week again with Air New Zealand via Japan but it looks like that’s fallen over now.
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“We’re hunkering down now and preparing to stay in London. We know chances are we’ll be okay here – but I have parents in New Zealand that need support and gutted I can’t be there for them now.”
Another New Zealander currently staying in London explained that her Visa was due to expire in May.
“My visa’s up in May, I couldn’t leave earlier because of work (I’m front line). I was on hold for two hours yesterday, they answered and said I need to keep checking the website because there’s no policy about it yet,” she said.
“I can carry on working at my job after May but that depends if they extend my visa.”
One man described how The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) was telling New Zealanders to return home using commercial flights but that it was “impossible” to do so.
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He added: “Instead people are throwing money into last minute overpriced flights and ending up stranded or destitute.”
Another woman said she found the constant changing flights and cancellations was exhausting.
She said: “Personally, the constant changing flights to then be cancelled – in the end it became mentally exhausting and having no choice but to accept you are stuck with no family and friends throughout this ordeal.”
A spokesperson for Emirates said: “The implementation of flight and travel restrictions by countries around the world to contain the COVID-19 outbreak, has been ongoing for the past weeks. Many were put in place with very little notice.
“Emirates understands that these are disruptive to travel, but as an airline operator, we have to follow government and regulatory directives.
“On 23 March, the UAE government directed that all passengers flights to/from and transiting the UAE should be suspended for two weeks.
“This means all Emirates passenger flights have to be temporarily suspended from March 25. Since then, our teams have been working hard to inform customers and re-book as many as possible onto our remaining flights or others. But with many airlines having already significantly reduced their flights, it simply is not possible to accommodate every traveller.
“Affected customers can visit emirates.com for more information on travel vouchers against future flights, or refunds. We look forward to resuming flights as soon as possible, and will make announcements when we have new schedules.”
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Etihad Airways and Air New Zealand have all been contacted for comment.