Kirsty Robinson and her family are stranded in Thailand as flights back home have stopped as a result of the national lockdown. Picture: Supplied
Kirsty Robinson and her family are stranded in Thailand as flights back home have stopped as a result of the national lockdown. Picture: Supplied

Airline price shock for over 200 stranded South Africans

By Yolisa Tswanya Time of article published Apr 21, 2020

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Cape Town – South Africans stranded in Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos will have to pay an increased figure to return home after failed appeals to Ethiopian Airlines to lower ticket prices.

Almost 250 South Africans in that region want to come home as countries continue to implement strict measures to stop the Covid-19 spread.

South African ambassador to Thailand Geoff Doidge issued a statement with three costing scenarios based on possible flight routing options.

He said scenario one was the Manila-Bali-Bangkok-Johannesburg flight via Addis Ababa for R26 500 a person. Scenario two was the Manila-Thailand-Johannesburg via Addis Ababa flight at R17 150 a person, and Scenario 3 was Manila-Thailand-Johannesburg via Addis Ababa for R21 800 a person.

“This has been submitted to the Department of International Relations and Co-operation for consideration and discussions with the Nat-Joints. We are continuously exploring further options. 

"This is an attempt from us to demonstrate that there is a ‘more than reasonable feasibility’ for the envisaged flight,” Doidge said.

Detailing correspondence between him and Ethiopian Airlines Bangkok, Doidge said the company indicated that “the global airline industry is currently going through one of the gravest times ever in history due to the ongoing Covid-19 crisis, with a tremendous fall in terms of passenger load and cargo that has caused huge impact on our financial state”.

“These quotes normally would have been higher but our team have explored all minimum possible cost of operation scenarios by combining it with other likely nearby operations to reduce the cost burden, empathising with all the ongoing difficulties faced by the travellers. 

"There will be a possibility of securing this discounted cost on April 22 if settlements are made before April 20,” the airline said.

Kirsty Robinson and her family had been on holiday in Thailand since March 18 and were due to return on March 28.

She said they would consider the three options, but would have to borrow money to afford the tickets.

“We would consider it but only because our jobs and livelihoods back home are in jeopardy the longer we are not able to return.

“We would not be able to afford the R23 000 option and would need to

take a loan to even afford the lower options. The only other option we

have is to wait it out here in Thailand until South African airspace opens. But there is no definite time period for when that will be or if we will even have jobs by that time.”

Robinson said it was a tough time for the family, both mentally and financially. “We have our two boys with us, who are three and five. My youngest turned three on April 16 here in Bangkok.

“We were in Phuket and when we heard about Phuket Airport being closed down we left for Bangkok on April 8 in the hope that we could fly from Bangkok on April 16 when the lockdown lifted. When the president announced that the lockdown was being extended, our flights were cancelled and we could not fly out of Bangkok,” she said.

Robinson, an insurance broker for a multinational, said she was meant to be working remotely.

“My husband works for a small telecoms company. We are not sure what financial impact the lockdown will have on his company and if he will still have a job after all this. The airline is holding our ticket open for us until we know for sure when we can return home. Their Covid-19 policy allows for a date change, refund or voucher.”

Astrid Smith-de Gruchy said she and her husband arrived in Thailand last month, also on holiday, and were not able to consider the tickets.

“We would need two tickets. My husband will not be receiving a salary month-end and I have a small business that has been closed since lockdown. If that is (the) only solution we will be stuck here indefinitely. We are financially running a full household in Cape Town, even though we are not physically there, and we have had to support ourselves over here.”

She said they paid non-refundable return tickets with an airline and that was meant to be their ticket home. “I’m praying that commercial flights will be allowed to operate again or that Dirco comes up with an affordable ticket option. Other than that, we are at their mercy.”

Dirco did not respond to questions by deadline.

Earlier this month, International Relations and Co-operations Minister Naledi Pandor said the country’s Missions and the Command Centre in Pretoria registered 2 313 South Africans stranded overseas due to the outbreak, which led to countries closing their borders. 

Of these, 726 were students, 600 workers, 492 tourists, and 495 had not disclosed.

Cape Times

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