Repatriation chaos: Hundreds finally heading to SA back after plane in Qatar does U-turn on runway

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More than 200 South Africans who boarded a Qatar Airways flight from Doha Hamad International Airport and had been left stranded after the plane turned on the runway on Tuesday are finally on their way to South Africa. The flight was delayed overnight due to delays in providing adequate quarantine facilities for its passengers.

According to the spokesman for Lunga Ngqengelele, Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco), the cause of the delay has since been sorted out and the plane would take on board at 11am South African time (12:00 in Doha).


“Everything has been sorted. Upon landing in South Africa, health department officials will rise aboard the aircraft to check their temperatures and make other assessments. Thereafter, the police and the Department of Transport are available to ensure that they are taken to the designated quarantine facilities. Now that the issue of quarantine facilities has been sorted, Dirco does not anticipate any further problems, ”Ngqengelele told News24 on Wednesday morning.

The flight initially experienced several delays after it had to leave at 1pm. 10:10 am on Tuesday. At 3:00 pm, it was not departing, and eventually the passengers got ready to leave just after 4pm, a passenger told News24.


Springbok hooker and winner of World Cup gold medalist Malcolm Marx was also stuck on the flight, OFM reported.


Passenger Clinton Collard had flown from Kuwait to Doha and arrived after 2 p.m. 3pm Monday to make the return trip.


He said according to documents from Dirco, which News24 has seen, the flight was confirmed.


Collard added before they could get going, it looked like things were going smoothly as they were being checked by medical personnel. But things turned worse as the plane taxied down the runway and they had to stay on board for almost an hour.


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He added that the captain then informed them that they had to turn around because the airline's operations team had advised them that it was unsafe to sit on the plane as it was not allowed to land in South Africa.


“It really boggles my mind if we have documents from Dirco proving that we are allowed to land, especially for these six repatriation flights, and now all of a sudden we can't land.


"I just got confirmation that the five remaining flights from Kuwait to Doha from Doha to Johannesburg have been canceled. No one knows what's going on," Collard said.


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He added that everything was confirmed on their side until the plane made a U-turn.


The May 2 announcement from the South African Embassy in Doha said it was pleased to announce after extensive negotiations between it and Qatar Airways as well as the South African government that the airline would repatriate many stranded civilians of the world.



Collard has been working in Kuwait for four years and decided to return home to his wife and two children because of the pandemic that led to his projects being halted and his earning no income.


"A lot of people on this flight are in the same situation. Everyone has lost their jobs, projects are stopped, contracts are stopped, there is no more revenue and the people just want to come home to their families."

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