A New Zealand citizen stranded in Buenos Aires says she can't get in touch with Air NZ over her cancelled flight and is now waiting to be evacuated to Germany.

Sissi Stein-Abel was in Argentina on a five-week holiday when the tightening travel restrictions amid the Covid-19 pandemic forced her to cancel the adventure and change her flight home from April to March 22.

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However, Stein-Abel, 63, a dual German-New Zealand citizen, was informed by her New Zealand husband back home that Air NZ was cancelling flights out of Argentina.


The German journalist, who has lived in New Zealand for 16 years and became a citizen in 2014, tried in vain to get hold of Air NZ to clarify the situation.

Her Lyttleton-based husband John Abel also tried to get information, to no avail.

Stein-Abel told the Herald she had been holed up in a hotel frantically trying to contact the New Zealand Embassy in Buenos Aires and other agencies to get back to New Zealand.

"I thought 'What will I do?'."

Her husband booked another flight with Latam Airlines to Auckland via Santiago but when the border between Argentina and Chile closed, Stein-Abel was back to square one.

She went to the New Zealand embassy which closed just as she arrived. Phone numbers went to voicemail.

Argentina had been in increasing lockdown, Stein-Abel said. Isolation and travel restrictions were now in place, restaurants were closed and supermarkets were running low of stock.

So she rang an emergency contact number for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade in New Zealand.


A helpful person there suggested she try the German consulate because she is travelling on a German passport, or "hunker down for at least two weeks".

"I have a second option to get out of here but I don't know if that will work."

She has managed to book an economy ticket on one of two German government evacuation flights - the first set to leave Argentina on Sunday.

Stein-Abel only qualifies because of her age and German nationality.

"Now my hope is I get onto the flight. It's still not clear if I'll be on the flight because there are 100 80-year-olds who cannot walk or whatever, so it's in order of priority of health and age."

If successful, the next step will be to access a flight from Frankfurt to Christchurch via Emirates, though Stein-Abel is not sure if those flights will still be available.

Meanwhile other New Zealanders are stranded on cruise ships around the globe and in other countries.

Last night Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters signalled evacuation flights for stranded New Zealanders might be a possibility.

A spokeswoman for Peters said today the Government was exploring all possible options to help New Zealand travellers overseas including the feasibility of assisted departures, hubs and routes, but there were no guarantees that these would be possible.

"We are urging New Zealanders currently travelling overseas to consider returning home while commercial options remain available. These continue to fall on a daily basis as airlines make the decision to stop flying."

The Herald has sent questions to Air NZ.