Coronavirus: South Africans stuck in New Zealand hope to make mad dash to Brisbane


South African woman Charmaine Coetzee is hoping her daughter can make it home from New Zealand soon.

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South African woman Charmaine Coetzee is hoping her daughter can make it home from New Zealand soon.

Around 200 South Africans stranded in New Zealand are trying to make a desperate dash to Brisbane to catch a repatriation flight home.

With no direct flight from New Zealand to South Africa, those hoping to return home must fly from Australia. However, getting there in time is proving an issue.

A South African Airways repatriation flight leaves from Brisbane on June 9, and passengers have to register for their seat by June 2. There are no other repatriation flights from Australia or New Zealand yet confirmed.

But, with all flights from New Zealand to Australia full for that day (a connecting flight must be taken within five hours), anxious South Africans are pleading for more trans-Tasman flights to be put on.

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Durban woman Charmaine Coetzee is hoping her daughter and boyfriend can make it back on the flight.

The duo had been working in New Zealand for 18 months and had a flight booked home for July 5, before it was cancelled because of coronavirus.

South Africans are hoping to be able to catch a flight to Brisbane next Tuesday to get back home.

SUPPLIED

South Africans are hoping to be able to catch a flight to Brisbane next Tuesday to get back home.

Qatar Airlines has subsequently offered some repatriation flights, but, at two to four times the usual prices, they haven’t been a realistic option for many of the stranded South Africans, Coetzee said.

“It’s just a desperate situation,” she told Stuff.

“I’ve had so many emails. South Africans are beside themselves, we’ve had quite a few who have had anxiety episodes.

“Some of them are split from their partners, some of them have kids at home … they have jobs that they potentially could lose if they don’t get back.

“I can’t tell you the anguish that some parents are going through. It’s just nightmarish.”

The South African High Commission said they were working hard on the situation, but that it was up to Air New Zealand to respond to the demand.

“The flight from Auckland to Brisbane is operated by Air New Zealand, so it is entirely Air New Zealand’s decision on how they do that,” High Commissioner Vuyiswa Tulelo said.

“We have approached Air New Zealand, requested that they extend the capacity of their flight to enable the South Africans to get to Brisbane … or at least make another flight available for them to get onto.

“We are still waiting to hear from Air New Zealand. We cannot pressure them. We have requested MFAT (Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade) to support that request, they have indicated they are more than happy to support. But it is the decision of Air New Zealand.”

Tulelo said it was imperative that all South Africans in this situation register with the High Commission to receive all relevant updates.

In a statement, Air New Zealand said it: “would be happy to work with the South African government to provide a charter service to assist South Africans to connect with repatriation flights home, should the South African government request this”.