COVID19: LANZBC member Viva Expeditions helps bring stranded Kiwis home from South America

Time to board 2

New Zealanders who found themselves stranded in Peru, Chile and Brazil due to coronavirus border closures were able to return home thanks to the efforts of the New Zealand Government and LANZBC member Viva Expeditions.

The situation for all travellers in South America became problematic after many countries suddenly closed borders and enforced rapid lockdown laws in response to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Viva Expeditions had already successfully repatriated all their clients caught up in the COVID-19 lockdowns, including working with partners to bring home 6 Kiwis stranded off the coast of South America on a charter cruise. But there were still others in need. 

“We made an earlier attempt at repatriating the Kiwis stuck in Peru, but at the final hour, the commercial flight schedules changed meaning the Kiwis couldn’t connect home via Sydney.  It was heartbreaking to have to leave them behind, so we are extremely pleased to have been able to bring them home on our second attempt” said Rachel Williams, founder of Viva Expeditions. 

The flight left Lima (Peru) on 14 April and made stops in Cusco (Peru) and Santiago (Chile) before touching down in Auckland in the early hours of 15 April.

Chartering a commercial aircraft to transit international borders when you are not an airline is not easy at the best of times, let alone during a Pandemic. While many enjoyed a quiet Easter, the Viva team were working around the clock to ensure the flight was achievable and no-one who wanted to get home was left behind.  

“We worked very closely with the government on this project and their support was essential.  I’m incredibly grateful for all the assistance we received from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the New Zealand Ambassadors, the Peruvian & Chilean government officials & LATAM Airlines. Together we were able to navigate the ever-changing travel and border restrictions, lawyers, insurance companies, governments & airport authorities to make it happen. We also want to thank the travellers and their families for their patience and support”, Williams added. LATAM Airlines is a Platinum Member of the LANZBC. 

Travellers were scattered throughout Peru, Brazil & Chile, and before they could even take the flight, they needed to be moved to major cities. This included bringing in people from some of the most remote parts of Peru, which had to be transported on specially sanctioned and government-approved vehicles given that Peru is in total military lockdown. The approximately 3,500 km bus journey to Lima required 3 drivers.

“Of course, due to it being an Easter holiday making these arrangements, all at a minute’s notice, was challenging in many ways. We had people we needed to transport through the night, people who we had to help care for and reassure, many different scenarios, all requiring special attention. So I must give special thanks to our local ground operations teams who worked tirelessly over the last week” Williams said.

This entry was posted on 29 Apr 2020


Platinum Members

Our Business Partners