Amid the lockdown, some Americans were trapped in a destination outside the US. The Wall Street Journal reported that these travelers asked for help from the government to return. Some, however, were not able to return due to restrictions of countries outside the control of the US government.
Getting stuck in an all-inclusive apartment for rent in the US is not bad at all. However, for those who were trapped abroad, the uncertainty was frightening.
Rescuing Trapped Americans Abroad
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Eastern Airlines helped in bringing back trapped Americans to the states. In coordination with embassies and the State Department, the airlines flew a number of repatriation charters. The airlines have brought US citizens home from countries such as Argentina, Panama, and Ecuador.
For the airlines, these repatriation flights were challenging. It involved coordination with airports of different countries, and logistical concerns were not that simple. In addition, everything needed to be done quickly.
The State Department
The US government did what it could during the heat of the pandemic. It did its best to charter flights that could rescue Americans from different parts of the world.
However, the State Department also encouraged its citizens to book commercial flights if they can, as soon as they can. This was during the beginning of the lockdown before stricter restrictions were placed by different countries. The State Department particularly said this because even they cannot guarantee rescuing every American, especially those in hard-to-reach places or remote locations.
When different countries closed borders, the State Department did its best to acquire permission from these countries to allow Americans to go home.
In Texas, on the other hand, Texans who were rescued in Peru are said to have received bills seven months after their repatriation flight. This has been reported by The Texas Tribune. Government-chartered planes rescued these Texans from Peru; they didn’t expect the bills to arrive months later.
The bill was sent to the citizens through a letter; failure to pay will mean withholding social security payments and tax refunds. These citizens were made aware of the amount for the flight before boarding the plane. However, they didn’t know how much the bill was going to be. Now, they are being asked for payment for more than a thousand dollars.
Lawmakers have been trying to pass a bill to waive these repatriation bills, with no success. These lawmakers said that the citizens incur these expenses through no fault of their own.
However, the State Department says that it is mandated by law to reimburse its evacuation assistance to its citizens. The reimbursement amount must be reasonable, according to the average airfare for commercial flights. A State Department official said that the total payment it needs to receive is around 41.4 million dollars.
The State Department said that the price for the airfare was by no means controlled by the department; it was set by private carriers that helped the government during the pandemic. As the pandemic was a difficult time for carriers, airfares spiked up; airlines reveal that it is more costly to fly a plane without passengers; it is more expensive to arrange last-minute flights; these reasons made airfares higher.
Getting Locked in Paradise
With restrictions relaxing in most countries, most Americans cannot wait to travel, and many already did. However, the US government and concerned organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warn that the times are still unpredictable; there is a chance that travelers may still be trapped in paradise. Different countries have different rules, which may be reasons Americans may not come back home at their planned time.
Additionally, CDC mandates that only COVID-19 negative individuals can board the plane back to the US. That means if a traveler tests positive days before their flight, they cannot fly back to the country; this person is now stuck in another country to quarantine.
This may be tough for most. In most tourist destinations deemed as paradise, medicine and hospitals are not readily available. This means that those who test positive from coronavirus may need to consider logistical concerns about getting the right medicine from outside. In addition, being stuck in paradise does not mean one can enjoy everything the destination offers; COVID-19-positive tourists still need to quarantine inside the room.
Therefore, traveling may now be allowed, but it does not mean that risks of traveling are eliminated. A traveler, hence, must be ready and aware of these risks so that they can act accordingly.