Coronavirus: Bognor Regis couple stranded in New Zealand as 50th wedding celebration becomes ‘disaster holiday’

A couple from Bognor Regis are stranded in New Zealand where they had gone for a ‘holiday of a lifetime’ to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary.

Tuesday, 24th March 2020, 1:34 pm
Keith and Sylvia Hall celebrating their wedding anniversary

Keith and Sylvia Hall, aged 74 and 69, are stuck in a hotel room and unable to arrange a flight home.

Their son, Phil Hall, said: “They’ve been saving up for this holiday for many years and it’s turned into a complete and total nightmare with no obvious end in sight.

“It’s quite a stressful time for them. I’m feeling pretty frustrated at not being able to do much from this end.”

Keith and Sylvia Hall celebrating their wedding anniversary

On the day of their anniversary, the couple were told their flights to the UK with a stop off in Singapore had been changed – and a day later that they had been changed again.

A third change meant they were supposed to fly back via Hong Kong, but their holiday company said they would have to pay for the tickets themselves, an additional £2,000.

Less than 24 hours later, the Hong Kong authorities announced they would no longer accept foreigners even via transit meaning the couple are still stranded in New Zealand, along with over 30 others, with no means of getting home.

Keith said: “The British consulate in Auckland is refusing to accept phone calls so we called the Foreign Office emergency helpline but after an hour and a half they cut us off automatically, this has been repeated three times.”

Sylvia said of their tour operator: “They have left us high and dry.

“If they went bankrupt, we’d be covered by ATOL, but they haven’t, they’ve simply decided to wash their hands of their overseas customers and tell them they have to pay for and do everything themselves, which can’t be right.

“We trusted and relied on them and paid them a huge sum of money.

“They had numerous chances to get us home earlier but refused to change anything until it was too late.”

The pair, both of whom have health conditions, are currently in self isolation in a hotel which Phil said was ‘in the middle of nowhere’ and 30 minutes from the nearest shop.

Their holiday package company will only be paying for their hotel stay until this evening, he added, meaning they will be forced to pay for their stay themselves from then on.

Phil said: “They haven’t got limitless funds and I’m not sure how long they can go on for, particularly if they have to stay for a number of weeks.”

He said he believed Foreign Office involvement would be the only way of getting them home.

“While it’s great all the Government is doing, it just seems as if any British nationals that are abroad are being left to their own devices,” he said.

“The Foreign Office has previously be able to repatriate people.

“It seems pretty appalling they don’t even seem to be considering it. It’s very disappointing.”

The couple have also contacted their local MP, Nick Gibb, but are yet to receive a response.

The Foreign Office has been approached for a comment.