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.
THE MESSAGE WAS NOT RECEIVED
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.
BUT IT GETS WORSE
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).
THE BIG SCRAMBLE
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!
WHO DROPPED THE BALL?
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?