an escalator in a building

In scenes reminiscent of Tom Hanks film ‘The Terminal’, passengers are stranded in airports around the world, with no sign of when that will change.

If there’s anything travelers around the world have learned in recent weeks, it’s not to travel with Tom Hanks. He may be a living legend, but throughout many fantastic roles, his plane crashed, his ship was hijacked by pirates, he had to land a plane in the Hudson River and he was stuck in an airport terminal for months.

In real life, people are now living out Hanks’ classic role as Viktor Navorski, the “man without a country” stuck in transit at the airport, which is based on the actual exploits of Mehran Karimi. Karimi lived at Paris Charles De Gaulle Airport for 18 years after issues in Iran before finally being granted asylum in Europe.

In recent weeks, the world experienced unprecedented border closures and flight cancellations as countries shuttered to outsiders, and in some cases – even citizens. The fast paced moved presented unprecedented disarray, as leaders failed to warn other countries of pending moves.

a escalator in a buildingThis created chaos as flights already in air would land to entirely new restrictions, and there’s perhaps no group more frustrated with the lack of international coordination than those now stuck in transit terminals. Some, for weeks…

According to Paddle Your Own Kanoo, 22 Indian nationals are stuck in Dubai, victims of border untimely closures on both sides. India temporarily halted all domestic and international flights, and closed borders even to returning citizens. On the other side of the immigration exit door, the United Arab Emirates suspended all visitor visas and stopped all flights.

The passengers have been stuck for weeks, and some are sleeping on floors. The Indian Government is said to be offering assistance, as is Emirates with meal vouchers, but it’s certainly not ideal. In Taiwan, passengers found similar issues, as nations closed borders while flights were in the air.

A group of travelers left New Zealand, bound for China at precisely the moment China closed to foreign visitors, and New Zealand initiated similar measures. The group are not citizens of either country, and are therefore stuck in limbo without the ability to return, or proceed forward.

a city street with buildings and carsIn the midst of all of this, Taiwan closed to short term visitors and transit passengers, leaving the group stuck air side. Measures are being considered to grant exceptions for the one British and two Japanese travelers in limbo, but the grant would mean a 14 day quarantine in Taiwan, with no flights out until April 17th, at the very earliest.

However bored you may be from self quarantining at home, this is a great reminder of how lucky we all are to be in the comforts and security of our own homes. You really could be sleeping in an airport transit zone, with no way in or out for the foreseeable future.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. Never thought I would see something like this at least in my lifetime. I am still amazed however when I look at my flight tracker to see so many planes still in the air that are not cargo related.

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