A Bay of Plenty couple stranded in their hotel in India since the Covid-19 lockdown began last month have finally returned home.
Don, 72, and Marian Stuart, 69, from Waihī Beach flew into Auckland last night much to the relief of their family.
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Their daughter Morag Stuart-Lavich, who lives in Auckland, told the Bay of Plenty Times she was so happy to share the family's great news.
"Mum and Dad and John and Jo Davidson from Hamilton, who were in the same tour group as my parents and a handful of other Kiwis, made it on to a privately-organised Australian charter flight."
Stuart-Lavich said the private charter flight was made possible by a group of expat Australians with aviation experience and aviation experts who banded together to help bring the approximately 400 Australians and small handful of Kiwis home.
The plane departed Delhi Airport on Sunday to Denpasar in Bali then flew to Melbourne, and on to Auckland where it landed about 5.45pm yesterday, Stuart-Lavich said.
Morag, who lives in Auckland, said she and her family were "absolutely thrilled" to have her parents home again, despite them having to stay in "managed isolation" in a hotel near Auckland Airport for two weeks.
"I live in Sandringham so I could see the plane coming into land and I stood outside and toasted mum and dad with a glass of bubbles as they flew overhead," she said.
"It is a great relief for our family but at the same time it's bittersweet as I know there are lots of other Kiwis still stuck in India," she said.
"Especially when we know that it just needs the assistance of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade to get charter flights off the ground in India."
Don Stuart said he and his wife were "absolutely thrilled" to finally be home.
"It's been a very stressful three to four weeks and we are just so pleased to be home even if we have to stay in isolation."
Stuart said the plane was "absolutely chocka" when they left Delhi, with 440 people on board, mostly Australians and eight Kiwis, including them, the Davidsons and four other Kiwis who had also stranded in India.
When their Air New Zealand flight left Melbourne there were about 80 to 90 passengers and when they saw the New Zealand coastline their relief was "immense".
"As the plane landed Marian and I just looked at each, both said 'we're home'," he said.
"We're pretty exhausted. But we so grateful to the Australians who organised this charter flight and from the bottom of our hearts we can't thank them enough."
Further private charter flights to fly hundreds of other stranded Australians from India back to the homeland are scheduled in the coming days, he said.
The Stuarts hope some of their costly flights would be covered by their travel insurance.
Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters announced last night the New Zealand government was organising repatriation flights from India for stranded Kiwis.
Peters said the Government was in discussions with airlines and international partners to help those stranded return home but would need to contribute towards the cost.
"This is a seriously complex endeavour due to the current lockdown and the large numbers of New Zealanders in various locations around India.
"However, we are making very good progress," he told Radio New Zealand.
Meanwhile, Pāpāmoa Beach couple Neil and Jackie Stewart, who had been stranded their hotel room in Lima, Peru since mid-March are also on their way home.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade confirmed a special government evacuation flight left Lima at 6am today with 41 New Zealand citizens, permanent residents and persons ordinarily resident in New Zealand on board.
Another 18 registered passengers will board the same flight in Santiago, Chile and the plane is due to arrive in Auckland at 5am tomorrow. • Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website