A lot of people around the world are trying to get home right now before borders close and more flights are canceled. Airlines are in a tough position as immigration rules seemingly change by the hour.
A few days ago, I read an article about charter flights by the US State Department to evacuate Americans stranded in Guatemala by the coronavirus pandemic.
Having lived in Guatemala for some time, the country is near and dear to my heart. However, I’m not extremely familiar with how repatriation (aka “rescue flights”) work so I genuinely interested in how these flights, had a lot of questions, and was surprised by many of the details that I found.
Flying from Guatemala City (GUA) to Miami (MIA) is a ~2.5 hour flight (or 1017 miles to be exact).
For comparison, the following routes are approximately the same distance:
- Los Angeles (LAX) – Seattle (SEA) = 954 miles
- Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) – Cleveland (CLE) = 1021 miles
- New York (JFK) – Miami (MIA) = 1089 miles
And generally, you can find one-way, non-stop flights between Guatemala City and Miami for about $100. Given the current situation, I assumed flights would be a bit more expensive given an increase in demand.
ARE RESCUE FLIGHTS FREE?
I never thought much about the logistics but I assumed rescue flights were free or perhaps had minimal costs however I was surprised that that is far from the case!
The US government is charging $1595 per person for a one-way, economy flight between Guatemala City and Miami.
Surprised by the cost, I was curious if the price fluctuated by destination. For example, was $1595 a “standard price” or does it cost more if, say, the rescue flight was between China and the US or Europe and the US?
RESCUE FLIGHT BETWEEN MOROCCO AND THE US
A few days ago, I had also read numerous accounts of passengers being stranded in Morocco because, without forewarning, the the borders were closed. Through the U.S. Embassy and Consulate in Morocco website, I was able to determine:
Event: There are special U.S. charter flights leaving Marrakesh Airport today, Saturday, March 21, 2020 at 1:00 PM, 3:00 PM, and 5:00 PM.
Actions to Take: Please proceed to the Marrakesh Airport as soon as possible if you would like to be on one of these flights today. There will be U.S. Embassy and Consulate General staff present outside of the terminal. Please speak to these representatives to confirm seat availability and register for the flights. These will be the last charter flights before Morocco closes its airspace to commercial air traffic tomorrow. There will be no special U.S. charter flights from other cities in Morocco.
All passengers will need to reimburse the U.S. Government for the flight at a later date, and a promissory note for approximately $1485 which must be signed before boarding. No cash or credit card payments will be accepted, and no payment needs to be made today.
For specific questions, please email us at: MoroccoEvac@state.gov
Note: The bolded areas above are for my own emphasis.
GOING DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE
I found a few interesting things about this message:
- What is the destination of the flight? Chicago? New York City? Jackson, Mississippi? Omaha, Nebraska?
- Why does it cost more to travel from Guatemala than Morocco?
- Are there consequences for signing the “promissory note” but not repaying the government?
- Is there a timeline for repaying the government?
FLYING WITHOUT DETAILS?
A reader of 1TP who is currently located in Ghana reached out to me with an interesting email. She was attempting to return to the US and had contacted the US government about a repatriation flight. This was the message that she received:
I’m not sure how I would feel if I received this message so I’m curious…
What are your thoughts about the email above? Do think repatriation flights should be free? Should they be priced according to region? If the flights are free, should tax-payers be held responsible for the bill (i.e. gas, crew fees, etc.)? Should your passport be revoked if you do not repay for the flight? Should there be “discounts” for families given $6000 or more (for a family of 4 ) is fairly expensive for a 2.5 hour flight? Is this an expense that should be expected if traveling abroad?