In the 2004 comedy-drama The Terminal, Tom Hanks played the lead character of Viktor Navorski, a traveller from the fictional nation of Krakozhia who became trapped in New York’s JFK airport after he was refused entry into the United States but was unable to return home after a military coup in his home nation. Now, similar scenes are playing out in several airports around the world after travel bans and entry restrictions imposed to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus leave passengers in a state of limbo.
At Dubai International Airport (DXB) 22 Indian nationals have been stranded in the airside transit zone since March 18 after the Indian government closed its borders to all travellers including its own citizens. India currently has a complete travel ban on all international and domestic flights meaning that getting back home will be next to impossible.
Some of the Indian passengers had arrived in Dubai from European countries which were already subject to a travel ban by the Indian authorities but with the rules changing so quickly, the passengers were accidentally allowed to board flights. With similar restrictions imposed by the Emirati authorities, the passengers have had no choice but to rough it out in the airport.
Several of the passengers were then delayed in Dubai because of storms that disrupted flights. By the time the weather improved, restrictions had been imposed and Emirates was no longer able to fly to India.
While some of the stranded passengers have been able to check-in to an airside transit hotel, others have been left to sleep on the floor. Emirates said it was providing the passengers with meal vouchers, while the Indian Consulate said it was trying to help the passengers.
Meanwhile, three passengers have found themselves in limbo at Taiwan’s Taoyuan International Airport after arriving on an Air New Zealand flight from Auckland. The one British traveller and two Japenese citizens were meant to be flying onto China but were stopped when Chinese authorities slapped a travel ban on all foreign nationals entering the country – an attempt to stop imported cases of Covid-19 creating a new outbreak on Chinese soil.
But the passengers can’t return to New Zealand because the Kiwi government has imposed its own ban on foreigners and Taiwan isn’t allowing foreigners to cross its borders either. News outlets in Taiwan blame Air New Zealand ground staff for accidentally allowing the passengers to board the flight. The airline wasn’t immediately available for comment.
Now, the Central Epidemic Outbreak Command Center in Taiwan is mulling whether to make an exemption and allow the passengers to enter the country – if they go down that route, however, they’ll be forced to enter quarantine for 14-days and won’t be allowed to leave the country until at least April 7.
Hopefully, none of these passengers face a similar fate as Mehran Karimi Nasseri, the real-life traveller who’s story The Terminal was based on. Nasseri spent a total of 18-years living in Terminal 1 of Paris Charles de Gaule airport between 1988 and 2006.
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.