The travel ban on India ends today, but those who are eligible to fly home are unable to find planes.
Up to Sunday, 131 people – 106 of whom are Indians – had booked themselves into MIQ facilities from “very high risk” countries.
However, a spokeswoman for controlled isolation and quarantine stated that not all of them would arrive here.
“It is highly likely that many of these returnees will not arrive in New Zealand because of the widespread disruption to flight schedules, particularly from India to destinations where many returnees from there currently transit en route to New Zealand,” the spokesperson said.
Ninety-one of those 131 people are permanent residents or temporary visa holders, which means unless they have a partner, are a dependent child or parent of a dependent child who is a New Zealand citizen, they will not be able to enter the country.
New Zealand citizen Uppkar Kashyap travelled to India for his father’s funeral and to support his mother and grandmother.
His return ticket was booked for the 24 April, but then the travel ban kicked in.
“I booked my flight for 30th [April] but now Emirates, they have stopped their flights and they have banned all travellers coming from India, they are not even allowing us to do the transit, so I feel like I’m stuck here,” Kashyap said.
His wife and two young daughters are still in New Zealand and his wife Teagan’s maternity leave ends soon.
He had been staying inside and regularly getting Covid-19 tests in case he has a chance to return home.
“If the flights people or government say ‘we can make the flight for you guys to come back home’ I can do whatever they want.
“If they want me to get a Covid test, I’m doing it already. Everything we can do we are doing but we want to come back home to our families.”
Other people talked to RNZ on the condition of anonymity because they were afraid of consequences.
One man’s wife travelled over to care for her ill father, but her return flight was cancelled.
Despite becoming a travel agent, he had been unable to arrange a ticket for his wife and was now concerned with how they would cover the bills now that her vacation pay had run out.
A pregnant permanent New Zealand resident said that her doctor advised her to return to New Zealand, where she will be healthy, but she is no longer qualified.
“I understand their concerns but at least spare us who are pregnant and need to come back for the sake of my health and my unborn child’s health,” she said.
All those interviewed said they understood the need to keep New Zealanders safe, but they wanted the government to give them flight options to get home.
A long haul to get back
House of Travel chief operating officer Brent Thomas said getting back from India was very difficult, even if someone was eligible under the new criteria.
“There’s certainly no direct flights and the traditional routes through places like Australia are certainly no longer able to happen,” Thomas said.
“Typically one of the options for people coming out of India will be on Qatar through Doha, however, there’s a limited number of availability there and it’s certainly a bit of a long haul to get back to New Zealand.”
Global travel rules were changing with just 24 hours notice and over time, requirements through transit countries were going to become even more complex, he said.
“As we go through this further down the track are they going to require vaccination proof? Are they going to need saliva testing before departures? All those sorts of things are going to come into play over the coming weeks and months.”
With Covid-19 deaths now surpassing 200,000 in India, the New Zealand government has committed to giving the Red Cross $1 million to assist with the crisis.
However, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said they were not currently offering repatriation flights for New Zealanders stuck there.
Instead, it urged New Zealanders in India to register on SafeTravel so they had up-to-date advice and information.