Triangle family stranded due to COVID-19 variant gets flight home from South Africa
Posted November 28, 2021 6:10 p.m. EST
Updated November 29, 2021 3:29 p.m. EST
A Triangle family stranded in South Africa due to travel restrictions brought on by the new Omicron variant has found a flight home.
Effective Monday, the United States began restricting travel from South Africa in an effort to control the spread of the new Omicron variant.
Even though travel restrictions do not apply to Americans, many people found it hard to return home, including a Raleigh family that was stranded in South Africa.
"It's been very confusing," said Lauren Kennedy-Brady. "It just happened so fast."
Kennedy-Brady spoke to WRAL News from her hotel room in Johannesburg, South Africa, where her family has been holed up since their safari vacation. Their return flight would have included a layover in Paris, but the European Union has banned flights from South Africa.
"We have spent the last 48 hours booking and rebooking for flights that are continually getting canceled, or they are not letting us on because we do not have a European passport," said Kennedy-Brady.
Early Monday, the family was able to get seats on a direct flight from Johannesburg to Atlanta. A relative told WRAL News that they would board Delta Flight 201 around 4 p.m. EST and were scheduled to arrive home at Raleigh-Durham International Airport just after midnight.
"It's really hard. The game keeps changing, and we are just trying to keep a level head and trying to keep our patience in tact," said Kennedy-Brady.
Kennedy-Brady — a well-known actress in the Triangle — said the airport is filled with frustrated passengers in the same situation.
"[There are] really long lines and lots of confusion and chaos," she said.
Back in Raleigh, the family's loved ones are waiting for their return.
"Well, sure, Americans can come back but the problem is Americans can't get back," said Alan Campbell, a family member of Kennedy-Brady.
Campbell said the United States Embassies and Consulates have provided very little information.
“If you are coming from South Africa, I think other countries are saying, at least at this point, until there is some protocol or agreement about getting our citizens home, everybody is hands off. This may be something that is just going to take time," he added.
Kennedy-Brady said the family's trip to South Africa was canceled twice because of the pandemic.
"I have to keep telling myself I am so grateful that we are together; we have each other," she said.
All four women are fully vaccinated and have the negative COVID-19 tests they need to return to the U.S.