MIAMI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, FLA. (WSVN) - Hundreds of Americans who were stuck in South America due to the coronavirus pandemic have arrived back in the U.S. at Miami International Airport.
An Eastern Airlines flight carrying those repatriated Americans arrived at the airport Wednesday night.
Jennifer Lupinsky was out of breath but happy to be back in the U.S. after being stranded in Ecuador. She said her airport experiences between the two countries were very different.
“We will self-quarantine. I’m not showing any symptoms or anything, and I was tested before,” Lupinsky said. “They’re really good. Ecuador has been really good with this. No, they didn’t test me here. There’s not even any masks here, but in Ecuador, everybody had masks.”
Eastern Airlines crews have been busy flying to 12 countries for repatriation flights in the last 17 days. A total of 7,100 people have been flown back to the U.S. after the coronavirus pandemic prompted travel restrictions around the world. Their latest flight originated from Ecuador.
“A lot of these countries have imposed pretty restrictive travel within the countries,” Eastern Airlines CEO Steve Harfst said. “Ecuador, for example, closed all of their internal borders, right? Well, all the people that were in Quito couldn’t get to Guayaquil.”
The U.S. State Department has been working to get stranded Americans in several countries back home. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo put out a warning to Americans during a March 20 interview.
“We can’t guarantee the U.S. government’s ability to arrange charter flights indefinitely where commercial options no longer exist,” Pompeo said. “Americans abroad who wish to return home should do so immediately.”
The repatriation flights are a major task for a company with just 187 employees, and many of them are stationed near MIA for quick travel, allowing people trying to get to the U.S. time to get to big city airports.
“Once there’s enough people that need to get back to the U.S., we put the flight out for sale, and we don’t discriminate between U.S. and non-U.S. citizens,” Harfst said. “If they can legally come to the U.S., then they can get on the airplane.”
Eastern Airlines said the majority of people on the flights have been Americans.
The airline has a few more flights coming in from other countries over the next couple of days. They will operate flights from Argentina and Bolivia Thursday, and they will have a flight coming in from El Salvador on Friday.
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