CHAOS: US Passengers Trapped On Aircraft in Johannesburg

Over the past few weeks, I’ve documented various countries around the globe that have imposed a variety of travel restrictions (including banning people from entering and leaving a country) in an effort to slow the spread of the COVID-19.


South Africa introduced a ban on entering the country Wednesday for travelers coming from countries identified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as high-risk with the COVID-19 virus – including China, Italy, United Kingdom, and the United States.

Additionally, the U.S. State Department issued a Level 4 advisory on Thursday, telling Americans not to travel abroad AT ALL.

Interestingly, passengers from the U.S. aboard both a South African Airways flight (from New York) and a Delta flight (from Atlanta) found themselves in a…surprising situation??? – not being allowed to disembark, and being told to return to their origin.

A South African Airways Airbus A350-900 was directed to a remote parking bay away from the terminals, surrounded by police, and boarded by public health officials.

South African residents and permanent residence holders were the only passengers allowed off these aircraft, after being screened onboard by officials.

Several Americans on board the flight from JFK reportedly staged angry protests against not being allowed off, and the prospect of a 16-hour flight back to New York.


A few hours after the South African Airways plane landed from JFK, the airline canceled all international flights with immediate effect until May 31 because of the COVID-19 virus and its effect on passenger yields.

Delta is the only other airline that flies directly to the U.S. from South Africa and they plan to cancel their daily flight to Johannesburg tomorrow (March 22).


With termination of direct flights from South Africa to the U.S., there is now a scramble by U.S. business travelers and tourists to try to get back to the U.S. via indirect routes.

The most logical alternative would normally be to fly home via Europe. But with the U.S. banning entry for non-Americans flying from Europe, and airlines continuing to eliminate international flights, Americans may find themselves (in the best situation) having to fly more than 24 hours total from the time the door closes in Johannesburg to the time it opens on the apron in the U.S. OUCH!


There are (obviously) some questions:

  • How did Delta Airline officials allow passengers (from the US) to board, despite a flight ban being issued the day before?
  • How did South African Airways’ officials allow passengers (from the US) to board, despite a flight ban being issued the day before?

Nevertheless, yesterday (Friday), hundreds remained stuck at Johannesburg’s airport.


With airline information updates, seemingly, every hour, and countries implementing various “bans,” it’s not surprising that this would happen.

What do you make of this situation? Who’s at fault…the airline? The government? The passengers?


  1. I don’t think it’s anyone’s fault. Responsibility should fall on all parties. However, As a traveler, you should have seen this building globally especially if you are from the US. I choose to cancel my flights. If I would have followed my planned itinerary. I would have been stuck in Egypt. Travelers need to think about all of the possible consequences if they continue with travel plans today. It’s not just about getting there but getting back. And if you are stranded for a month, will you be able to support yourself?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have been trying to have compassion for these travelers and those stuck overall but I can’t find any. Travel is THE source of the spread. Stop doing it…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I agree with the the above commenter. At this point people should think of all possibilities that could go wrong and if they’re prepared for the consequences. I personally wouldn’t mind being stuck in another country, the Caribbean specifically if I was able to afford a 30 day or more Quarantine. Also thanks for theses updates. I don’t even bother reading travel news due to your blog keeping me well informed. I look forward to your post daily.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. @J.O. I think you’d be surprised (or perhaps not lol) but I’ve heard of people booking solely because the flights were so cheap. Additionally, I’ve heard the argument that “if you can change without the penalty of a ‘change fee’ why wouldn’t you book it?” To each their own, I guess. But to those that choose that route, good luck. 🤣
    p.s. You kind words mean a lot! Thank you.


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