Stranded Brit couple sleeping in car in South Africa as Omicron Covid hits UK


Jan and Mick Sturla, 73, have been given no answers about when they can fly home and claim they have received no support from the British Embassy after allegedly being forced to sleep in a hire car outside the airport for “days”

Jan and Mick Sturla, 73, from Kent, claim they have been left sleeping in their car amid the Omicron outbreak

A British elderly couple claim they have been forced to sleep in their car for days and spend “thousands” after the Government left them “stranded” in Johannesburg following the outbreak of the new Omicron strain of Covid.

Jan and Mick Sturla, 73, from Kent, treated themselves to a 10 day safari vacation to Elephant Plains, South Africa – flying out on Sunday November 21, before the new strain was even detected.

But following the announcement of the first case by the World Health Organisation on Wednesday (24 Nov), the retired couple saw all flights out of the country cancelled and began fighting to get home as soon as possible.

The grandparents of four have endeavoured to contact airline British Airways and the British Embassy, but have been given no concrete answers about when the Government will collect its citizens.

Speaking through tears, their only daughter, Louise Peters, 36 said: “I’m scared for their safety they are 73 and vulnerable I’m worried people will look at them and see them as targets.

Mick and Jan with their only child, Louise


Jan and Mick Sturla)

“The chances of getting them home for Christmas are looking increasingly slim.

“My mum couldn’t even talk this morning, she was so upset.

“The Government know there are going to be cancelled flights, they need some sort of backup option.

“As for British Airways there is a message on their website about customer care being their utmost priority but all my parents have had is a text message telling them that flight is cancelled. It’s obvious they just don’t really care.”

After the WHO confirmed the first case of Omicron on Wednesday, the couple received a text message from British Airways cancelling their flight home which was booked for Tuesday, 29 November.

Mick and Jan treated themselves to a pre-Christmas vacation after spotting a deal – but have been left stranded in South Africa after the Omicron outbreak


Jan and Mick Sturla)

Mr and Mrs Sturla say they were told they would have to pay £4,500 to self isolate in a Government approved hotel for 10 days as they would be returning from a red list country.

The couple drove eight hours from Elephant Plains to OR Tambo Airport in Johannesburg in a desperate attempt to get home in time to be out of isolation for Christmas, but claim all flights to the UK were cancelled.

Following several back and forth calls with their travel agent, the grandparents decided to try instead flying to another country, booking flights first to Dubai and then Mauritius – but both times were turned away at the last minute.

Louise estimates they have spent between £7,000 and £8,000 in flights, accommodation, tests and travel as they continue to try and get home.

Jan and Mick have enjoyed previous trips to the South African plains to see the safari


Jan and Mick Sturla)

Louise said: “They drove eight hours through the night to get to the airport and do the PCR test only to be told at the desk that they wouldn’t be allowed on the flight because these countries are only accepting their citizens as arrivals from South Africa.

“The cost of trying to come home is running into the thousands, they say that they are spending money like water.

“People that live in Britain need to be able to come back to this country.

“No one has given them any information, they’re just getting hearsay on the rumour mill that there might be a British flight home in two weeks.

Mick claims he has tried and failed to get any response from British Airways or the British embassy


Jan and Mick Sturla)

“All the Australians, people from the US or Mauritians have been given a flight time to come home while all of the Brits are just wondering around the airport aimlessly.

“It’s not good enough.

“They have known about this new strain of the virus for nearly a week so why haven’t they made a plan about how they are going to get people back to the UK.

Now the couple are desperately trying to get home to spend Christmas with their family


Jan and Mick Sturla)

“Have they learnt nothing from the first months of the pandemic when people were stranded all over the world for weeks?

“It feels like the same thing is happening again, history is just repeating itself.”

The Foreign Office did not provide a statement but claimed that British nationals currently in South Africa and affected countries should make use of the commercial options available if they wish to return to the UK.

It added that “no travel is without risks” but that the FDCO “would respond rapidly if risks from any country increase”.

A spokesperson for British Airways said: “We continue to do everything we can to support all customers whose travel plans have been affected as a result of the UK Government’s temporary ban on flights from South Africa. We’re looking into this specific case and will ensure the customers are contacted to discuss their options.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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