Longview family stuck in South Africa after travel restriction confusion due to omicron variant

Local News

LONGVIEW, Texas (KETK) – A Longview family is stranded in South Africa because of confusion surrounding the new COVID-19 variant, omicron.

Kathryn and Dane Matney went to visit their son John in South Africa. Their stay was meant to only last two weeks, but it has turned into a month-long visit.

The Matney’s boarded their plane, ready to fly back to their Longview home. Then, the airline unexpectedly told all passengers to get off the plane.

“When we got to the airport, they sent us to a terminal, and nobody knew what to do. We stayed there about an hour or so when finally they sent us to another terminal across the airport to find out what gate we were supposed to go to fly back to Durban,” said Dane Matney.

The couple was nearly an hour away from their son’s home with no way to contact anyone for help.

“By 11 o’clock Friday night, we had heard some chatter on Twitter about what was going on. I decided to contact the airline, and they couldn’t really tell me anything. I contacted the airport, and they said the flight was still on. At that point, I knew something was going on,” said John Matney.

The airline booked hotels for passengers. After searching for hours, John eventually found his parents.

“I couldn’t go to sleep until I knew my parents were okay, and you know my father. This is his first time ever traveling outside of the United States, so I can imagine what was going on in their minds. Finally, around 1:30 Saturday morning we found them and were finally sure that they were okay. It was very, very nerve-racking and very stressful and very emotional,” said John.

Dane added, the experience was stressful, but the family was able to book a flight with a different airline back to America.

“This has turned into a month’s stay rather than just two weeks, which has resulted in many other things that we’ve had to figure out as far as chronic medications, doctor’s visits and things like that,” said John.

However, they will not be able to return to East Texas until mid-December. Although, the US State Department issued a “Do Not Travel” warning for eight southern nations in Africa, it did not go into effect until Monday this week, and the Longview family was set to leave last Friday.

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