People Evacuated To The U.S. During Covid Are Waiting For Bills – With Their Passports Cancelled

Like many other countries, the U.S. chartered ‘repatriation flights’ to bring U.S. citizens home during the coronavirus pandemic. When commercial flights were no longer available to certain destinations, these flights were arranged by the State Department.

In some countries flights like this are ‘free’ (paid by taxpayers). U.S. citizens must pay the cost of their own repatriation flights by law. But the U.S. government has handled the billing about as well as everything else during the pandemic.

  • For some flights, prices were quoted with an ambiguous ‘up to’ amount.

  • Some passengers signed promissory notes agreeing to pay whatever the cost was eventually determined to be.

  • Others secured loans for their tickets with their passports, but since they too are waiting to be billed – for 3 months – their passports have been cancelled pending the unpaid debt and they cannot get new ones. They have to apply for new passports, but that cannot be processed until the debt which cannot yet be paid is paid.

State has flown home about 100,000 U.S. citizens home from nearly 150 countries since the pandemic began, at a cost of $196 million to the agency, which it must collect from passengers. Of that sum, about $8 million comes from direct loans secured with a passport.

…Though those untold thousands took direct loans, the main method of payment for State-chartered repatriation flights was promissory notes, without anything more than an estimate of how much it might cost. Most of the people repatriated, especially in the beginning of the department’s efforts, were handed blank documents which they had to sign before they got on the plane, promising to pay back the government when billed.

Pricing for the flights is quoted with a ‘scare number’ of up to $10,000 for a family of four, but that’s actually low. A rescue flight from Tanzania cost as much as $3500 per person, and that only got the person back to the U.S. Passengers had to separately purchase commercial flights to get to their final destination.

These flights were voluntary. Everyone knew what they were going to cost up front. That price can only go down. And it turns out that for many they were in places with less virus spread than the U.S., so they would have been ‘safer’ to stay put rather than return. The legitimate complaint, it seems, isn’t about the cost of the tickets home for those that chose to travel on these charter flights – it’s the time it takes to actually settle the debt.

(HT: Paul H.)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. The United States government has handled this pandemic as well as it could have IMHO the reason things are so bad still is the American people are far too stupid on average.

    America is a successful country because at the upper extreme, we have very smart people, but the bottom 99% of Americans are pathetic embarrassment to the rest of the developed world.

  2. But Secretary of State Mike Pompeo somehow had time in his gaseous appearance before Congress not to speak of this mismanaged repatriation but instead suggested that the US election could somehow be postponed.

    Constitutional law says otherwise.

    If you’ve had your passport cancelled due to Pompeo’s incompetence, why not tweet at him to let him know: @SecPompeo

  3. @Jason
    Great reflection on yourself, self admitting that you are an embarrassment
    You come here with the sole purpose of contradicting anything Gary writes, but of course with your “millions” in bonuses you have time to do that
    As agreed before, you are an idiot
    Say hi to mama again pls (is she still turning tricks behind the 7-11 like in the old days?)

  4. Not everyone was told the price upfront. The embassy in Lima, during the repatriation flights, indicated the price will be that of a commercial flight before the crisis started, but without a hard number, that can be anything. Charters sponsored by the embassy soon after were priced at $2K per person. Big suprise.

  5. @Jason – the buffoon in chief still says the virus is just going to magically go away. And that HCL is still a wonder cure (organ damage be damned).

    Is that handling things well?

  6. Ah the sad life of @Doug. Guess his luxury Portugal resort hasn’t enough to keep him occupied so he resorts to 80’s-era brainless insults. Die and go to hell, man!

  7. Gary, I assume that none of these flights will be covered by travel insurance such as offered by Chase Sapphire?

  8. @jason
    Sorry man
    Working in slovenia now, off to portugal sunday…
    As an uneducated moron you probably don’t even know where that is
    When you find it in the map let me know

  9. @Jason couldnt’ agree more with your comment!..

    What a great reminder for Gratitude..
    I’m stuck since March here in Panamá (country), and my wonderful socialist homecountry Venezuela hasn’t arranged a SINGLE repatriation flight. While I follow the US Embassy and Copa Airlines twitter for the many weekly flights to the US since the Pandemic (last week the privileged citizens of the Greatest Country in the world got 4 flights). And a comprehensive plan and communications to the Salvoconductos (the permits to move to the airport because we have full lockdown here, which isn’t working at all btw and the economy is getting busted, but that’s another story).

    Spain was the place with most stucked Venezuelans, they went into homelessness living in the Barajas Airport making pressure to the Spain Government (which love to have great relationships with the communist regimes like Venezuela) and finally past July 25st they arranged ONE flight, at 600 Euros per seat (surprise! socialism isn’t free).. Don’t even let me started into the details they had to endure once they reached Venezuela.

    But hey, I guess the grass is always greener at the other side.

  10. Nice. Another reason to reconsider having a US passport as an expat. Tax burdens (that includes the hassle of paying to comply, to end up owing nothing) for literally nothing in return. A fast(er) line at customs? Whoopie. Taxation, no representation, pay your own rescue, can’t even move back bc health insurance is not in any way guaranteed, and on and on. What a country!

  11. Awww. Ickle @Jason is todays appointed Trumpette cheerleader. To ignore facts, all while waiting to give Herr Drumpf a rim job shows that @Jason doesnt care about the USA or the constitution. Hes a fascist coward

  12. Jason, the stupid Americans are those who voted for the Pussy Grabber racist in the White House, If you think the country is doing so well you should consider the moron’s advice and swallow some Clorox.

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