Pushpinder Singh is thanking his lucky stars for taking advantage of a small window to leave Covid-ravaged India and fly to New Zealand.
As a New Zealand citizen, Indian-born Singh was able to board a flight in New Delhi on May 1, three days after the New Zealand Government lifted a ban on returning citizens from high-risk countries like India.
From there he flew to San Francisco and on to Los Angeles for a connecting flight to Auckland before the United States closes its borders to India tomorrow.
The flight, which took nearly three days and cost about $6000, was the only way to return home to Auckland after his return flight via Dubai on Emirates was cancelled when the United Arab Emirates (UAE) closed its borders to India.
Singh said the window to leave India was very small, very high risk and very expensive, saying the route between India and New Zealand is now closed.
As India nears 20 million cases of Covid-19 with thousands of deaths a day, Singh was concerned about leaving his parents in New Delhi and gave them instructions not to go outside.
"It is very dangerous. It seems like the Covid has come through airborne over there. It's a very horrible situation at the moment," he said.
What was planned as a two-week trip to visit his grandmother who was seriously ill and died on April 18, turned into a nightmare for the 30-year-old, who works installing and monitoring fire alarms in Auckland.
He contacted the airline Emirates and was told of the New Zealand travel ban from India, but when that ban was lifted, the UAE extended a ban on India and his flight home was cancelled. He could not get a refund.
"I was panicking and stressing out because there was no plan for me to stay in India for a long period. I had a commitment with my job, a mortgage, bills and everything," he said.
Singh said he then discovered the only country accepting New Zealand citizens was the US and went with the option even though the flights were "super expensive" at between $6000 and $7000.
All up, Singh said the round trip to see his grandmother and parents cost about $10,000 and took about three days on the home leg, including a day between flights in Los Angeles.
He landed in Auckland today and is in managed isolation at a hotel in Hamilton.