There are more than 100,000 Europeans still stranded abroad after airlines cut flights and entry restrictions imposed by a growing list of countries stopped tourists from getting their flights. Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission said the EU was everything possible to get people home as quickly as possible.
“Right now, we have helped organise 13 flights to repatriate Europeans from Egypt, Morroco, Philippines, Tunisia, Argentina, you name it,” she said of the current efforts.
“There will be more than 3,000 onboard (the rescue flights) and in addition we are getting ready to bring home Europeans from Peru, Maldives, Mongolia and many African countries,” she continued.
von der Leyen said the European Union had also helped to repatriate citizens of the United States out of Morocco but clearly many more rescue flights will need to be organised to get people home.
The Lufthansa Group said it had already brought home 20,000 Austrian, Belgium, German, and Swiss tourists after regular flight schedules were cut. In the past couple of days both Brussels Airlines and Austrian Airlines have suspended all flight operations, grounding all aircraft apart from a couple of planes to help in repatriation efforts.
Lufthansa will continue to operate special flights over the coming days and Brussels Airlines has drawn up its own plans to repatriate 9,500 Belgians on 56 special charter flights. Air France said it had already operated over 100 repatriation flights and still more were being organised.
Carsten Spohr, Chairman of the Executive Board of Deutsche Lufthansa AG said the current situation was no longer about economic issues as he pledged support to get people home.
“Right now, it is not about economic issues, but about the responsibility that airlines bear as part of the critical infrastructure of their home countries,” Spohr said on Tuesday.
The European Union has found itself subject to tough travel restrictions imposed by many countries around the world after the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the continent the epicentre of the COVID-19 Coronavirus outbreak. The EU has also imposed its own 30-day travel ban.
Both Morocco and Peru have been named as travel “blackspots” because of total travel lockdowns. The authorities in Peru originally stopped anyone, including foreigners, from leaving the country in an effort to contain the spread of the virus.
India has also closed its border to everyone, including its own citizens, as part of the efforts to limit the damage that COVID-19 can wreak.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.