Jisha Sheela, a registered nurse stranded with her husband Deepu Sudha in India, is among the thousands of essential workers unable to return because of New Zealand's Covid-19 priority rules.
The couple had travelled to India to visit family, and were caught up in the coronavirus border closures and are now stuck in Kerala, in India's south.
Their hopes were raised when Air India announced it will take Kiwis on board a flight departing Delhi for Auckland this Thursday to bring Indian nationals home.
But Jisha and Deepu were told priority will be given to New Zealand citizens and residents, and their families, and essential workers like her will just have to wait.
"What bad luck for us ... and we have lost hope," said Deepu.
"They are giving priority first to NZ citizens and their family members, then permanent residents and only then essential work visa holders."
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Deepu, a machine operator from Woolston, Christchurch, said they have been stranded in Kerala since February after they travelled there to visit family.
The couple are believed to be among about 1000 New Zealanders stuck in South India after getting caught in the Covid-19 border closures.
Deepu said they have been stranded in Kerala since February.
An estimated 1000 Kiwis are stranded in the region and many have said it was impossible to get to Delhi or Mumbai to catch mercy flight departures.
"We finally got the happy news that there will be an Air India flight from Delhi to Auckland, but when we completed the eligibility survey we were told that we are not allowed to book the tickets," Deepu said.
He said the uncertainty was causing them severe stress, and that Jisha had been crying daily.
"We are begging both the New Zealand and Indian governments to help us, but no one is listening," he said.
A Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokeswoman said New Zealand citizens and their immediate family members are given priority for seats on the June 4 flight, followed by New Zealand permanent residents.
"Foreign nationals who meet our current immigration requirements will be considered if there are unfilled seats," she said.
Since April, the NZ Government has repatriated more than 700 New Zealanders and their families from India on three chartered flights.
"India intends to repatriate its citizens from New Zealand using Air India charter flights, which New Zealand citizens in India will be able to travel here on," the spokeswoman said.
"So far Air India has one flight scheduled to depart New Delhi for Auckland on Thursday. We expect further flights may become available later in June."
She said details on flight locations, timings and costs information will be available on the Air India website once confirmed.
The ministry's eligibility survey assessed 1783 people as eligible to enter NZ, and this included some other visa holders besides citizens and residents.
"Given the limited capacity, not all of those eligible to enter New Zealand will be able to get on the flight," the spokeswoman said.
She encouraged those still wanting to return home from India to register on SafeTravel to get updates from MFAT.
Details of potential flights were also being regularly updated on the New Delhi High Commission website.
However, she said the focus will be on facilitating options for the return of NZ citizens and their immediate family members.
The New Zealand Government will continue to focus on facilitating options for the return of New Zealand citizens and their immediate family.