SA couple happy to be home after being stuck at German airport
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Cape Town – From being in Italy when its coronavirus cases peaked to sleeping in an airport terminal, a local couple are happy to finally be home after delays saw them living at the Frankfurt
Airport in Germany for nearly a week.
What was meant to be a 17-hour layover for Giancarlo Pucciatti and his wife Louise continued for days as their flight was cancelled.
Louise said they were meant to be in Italy for three months but decided to return home after two months as a result of the lockdown back home.
“After a month we saw that South Africa would not open borders and we knew that repatriation flights were going to be few and far between.
"We found Qatar flights and decided to take them. We found the flights after someone posted a link on Facebook and said it would be flying to Joburg,” Louise said.
She said they then heard that their flight was not able to leave as it was awaiting approval from South Africa to land.
Her husband said they spent the first night in the terminal building, but with the assistance of airport staff, they were moved to a different area.
“They would bring us breakfast in the morning and give us a place to shower, and we got supper, so at least we had something to eat. The area was barricaded and we were given stretchers to sleep on and airline blankets - and that is where we stayed,” Giancarlo said.
He said they met more South Africans there as well as other foreign nationals, including a Chinese national that had been stuck there for a month.
Giancarlo said after they posted on Facebook about their plight, the next day a Qatar Airways employee got in contact with them and kept them updated on what was happening with their flight.
“I am glad that we are back. We were blessed to be stuck in Germany, where there is an efficient government. It was not an ideal place to be, especially for a woman.
"There were announcements all night, the lights were on, and we didn’t really sleep for those four days,” he said.
The couple returned home on Tuesday and are in quarantine at a government facility.
The Department of International relations and Co-operation (Dirco) said discussions with Qatar Airways are ongoing in an effort to resolve challenges relating to the other proposed repatriation flights.
“Dirco remains seized with ensuring that all South Africans return to the country within the provisions of the lockdown regulations and all required approval.
“Since the announcement of the State of Disaster by President Cyril Ramaphosa, which saw South Africa implementing a lockdown on March 26, Dirco has facilitated the repatriation by air of over 4000 South Africans stranded abroad.
“Hundreds more have also returned through land borders. This means that more South Africans have now been repatriated than the initial 3639 who requested repatriation.
"However, many more remain destitute, distressed, and stranded abroad and this number increases as the lockdown in the various countries, including South Africa, continues,” Dirco said.