Canadians battle to return from U.Okay. after surprising COVID-19 flight cancellations
Canadians stranded in the UK face uncertainties about how or when to get home and, in some cases, where to stay while waiting for the travel ban.
Brooke Johnston, 42, is from the Niagara region of Ontario but had traveled to London to work. Her contract ended on December 18 and she was prepared to leave when Canada suspended all commercial and personal passenger flights from the UK.
This initial 72-hour suspension of flights from the UK has now been extended by two weeks to January 6 as Canada tries to prevent the spread of a new variant of the novel coronavirus it has discovered.
There are concerns that the new variant is significantly more contagious than other strains, although it may not be more deadly.
Johnston said she was stressed out about “this open matter, not knowing when this will end or where I will stay.”
The problem, Johnston said, is that their accommodation is about to run out and parts of London and areas of south east England are subject to stricter Tier 4 COVID-19 restrictions.
“It’s a little scary because of course the hotels and Airbnb are closed for bookings, so I have a place to stay until December 28th, but after that it’s a big question mark,” she said.
Reports of thousands stranded in the UK
There are reports of many people stranded in the UK when dozens of countries around the world imposed travel restrictions on fighting out of the country.
Global Affairs Canada stated that there are currently 11,038 Canadians registered in the country. However, this is voluntary registration and not everyone may want to leave the country.
Johnston said she had a few days to find shelter.
“In normal times, I would check into a hotel or stay with friends, but who will take me in now in the middle of the pandemic if something is going on in London? I will put myself and others at risk,” she said.
“It’s what it is right now, but it’s really tough and stressful.”
Canadian High Commissioner for the UK Janice Charette said staff at Canada House in London and the Global Affairs Emergency Watch & Response Center in Ottawa had been working cooperatively this holiday season to respond to calls and emails from Canadians, who are traveling.
“If any travel plans to Canada are affected by recent measures, our best advice is that Canadians in the UK contact their airline and travel insurance company to discuss alternatives and / or compensation,” Charette said in a statement to CBC News. “Travelers are advised that the travel conditions can change quickly and without prior notice.”
Charette noted that alternative routes may require a recent negative PCR test prior to boarding and that travelers should check with their airline when booking.
Saeed Durhan, of Mississauga, Ontario, traveled to London on vacation and to visit friends and family. Now he and his 15-year-old son cannot book a flight home. (Submitted by Saeed Durhan)
Saeed Durhan, 51, was fortunate enough to be able to extend his hotel stay, but it’s expensive.
“We have been trying to find a flight home since Sunday,” he said.
“We have found nothing.”
Durhan traveled from Mississauga, Ontario on vacation and to visit family, but now cannot book a flight to take him and his 15-year-old son home.
He even tried to book a flight to Canada via Washington DC, but was advised that United Airlines will only accept US residents.
Durhan said there was no help, guidance, or direction from the Canadian government or consulate.
“I’m not looking for free travel here. I want the Canadian government to do exactly what the US government did,” he said.
“United Airlines only takes US citizens. Why can’t Canada do the same with Air Canada? Air Canada planes are sitting at Heathrow Airport. Why can’t they do the exact same thing and say that only Canadian residents can get on the plane and go home walk? “
On Saturday after CBC News was released, Durhan said he could book a flight to Canada departing on Monday.
According to Global Affairs Canada, there are no plans to offer return flights or flights with assistance.
A statement made to CBC News said it was known that Canadians overseas are planning to return to Canada.
The federal government has been advising against non-essential travel outside Canada since March 13, 2020.
However, Global Affairs Canada says it will continue to monitor the situation closely.
“The Canadian consulate basically told me I was alone,” said Durhan. “The Canadian government leaves its own citizens completely stranded.”