Stranded Britons quoted £40,000 each to fly home from New Zealand

By Mark Townsend

Britons stranded abroad due to the coronavirus pandemic are being faced with flights home costing more than £40,000, prompting a wave of accusations that the Foreign Office is failing to adequately support people desperate to come home.

Britons in New Zealand told the Observer that the only available flights to the UK are prohibitively priced with even the cheaper tickets costing as much as £15,000. A Qatari Airlines flight from Auckland to London on 31 March was priced at NZ$83,534 (£40,096).

Those stranded say they have been left without guidance or assistance after the UK embassy and consular services in New Zealand abruptly closed their doors last week.

Marine engineer Tim Johnson, 30, from Norwich, who is stuck in Auckland with his wife Nikki, said: “The cost of the flights has been far out of reach of the people stranded. Yet the embassy and Foreign Office lauded these flights as a diplomatic breakthrough.”

There is growing anger among British nationals who point to the example of European countries which have sent planes to repatriate their citizens at affordable prices.

“The German government chartered a whole bunch of Lufthansa and Condor planes. A lot of Europeans have been repatriated without needing to kick up a fuss,” Johnson added.

NHS doctors, as well as individuals who have lost their jobs, their home or who are running out of medication are believed to be among an estimated 6,000 Britons marooned in New Zealand.

In India details emerged of Britons stranded in Goa who were running out of food and felt increasingly targeted by some locals who blamed them for spreading coronavirus.

Further south, concern is growing over a group of elderly British citizens who have been detained in hospital isolation in Kochi, Kerala, for more than a week. The group, aged between 60 and 83, have all tested positive for Covid-19 and relatives fear they are being held in unsanitary conditions.

Off the coast of Panama, hundreds of Britons are trapped on a cruise ship where four people have died after passengers tested positive for coronavirus.

A spokesperson said the Foreign Office was “working around the clock to support British travellers” and seeking to keep key transit routes open as long as possible.

The British High Commission in Wellington has established an online registration system to track and communicate with Britons, the spokesperson added.