A WOKING couple who were trapped in New Zealand after flights were cancelled because of the COVID-19 outbreak are back home, after being given the last two seats on one of the few planes leaving the country.

Jan and Mo Rubin had been on a tour of the country after visiting their son Jonathan in Melbourne, Australia, as part of a birthday treat.

Towards the end of a tour of New Zealand, the rest of the itinerary was called off, and they were stranded at a hotel in Christchurch.

Their initial flight home was cancelled and then Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister, closed the borders and ordered a lockdown, meaning that other flights were also stopped and travel around the country was difficult.

Jan contacted the News & Mail, which put her in touch with Jonathan Lord, the Woking MP, who emailed the Rubins, giving them links to register with the High Commission in Wellington.

The couple had already been in the country four weeks and feared they would be stranded for at least another month, with their money running out.

“When we arrived in Auckland, we were on tenterhooks waiting to see if we could get a flight,” Jan said.

“Suddenly, we got an email from the High Commission saying there were two seats on a Singapore Airlines flight the next day and did we want them. You can imagine what we said.”

The Rubins had to pay for the flight and faced a last-minute obstacle when their bank initially failed to process their credit card, but Jan managed to get in contact and the bank approved the transaction.

The couple are now back at their home near the Basingstoke Canal, where they are able to take a walk, following the social distancing guidelines.

They have sent a thank you email to Mr Lord and Jan said: “We were grateful to have been given the chance to get home with that one-off flight and now hope all the other stranded tourists get repatriated soon.”

Mr Lord said: I’m absolutely delighted that Mo and Jan are home safely and I would like to thank all those who helped make it possible."

For the full story get the 2 April edition of the News & Mail