3,000 Miles Apart: Pandemic Splits Euless Family for 2 Months

U.S. government arranges repatriation flights but with a price tag

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A Euless family has found themselves separated by more than 3,000 miles because of the pandemic – for longer than two months.

For the Snells -- Chris, Sheila, and 10-year-old Kailah -- it started in early March with a getaway to South America for a wedding.

"It was just a regular trip to Peru to be honest with you,” Sheila Snell said.

They had gone before. She is from there.

Mom and daughter planned to stay an extra week after dad flew home to go back to work.

But soon after the father’s flight took off on March 14, their plans took a turn.

"The crew said you're the luckiest passengers of the day. We just found out this is the last flight out for the foreseeable future,” Chris Snell said.

He said he immediately thought of his wife and daughter who were still there.

Peru, which draws tourists to its history and natural beauty, shut its borders and has not announced plans to reopen.

"As it developed, things started to get worse and I realized it wasn't going to be just two weeks,” Kailah Snell said. “It was going to be a lot longer.”

Asked what she misses most about life in the United States, she said, “Mostly everything.”

Snell family
Sheila Snell and her daughter Kailah in Lima, Peru.

As the virus spread in Peru and around the globe, the U.S government arranged for charter planes to get Americans home, but the Snells and others complain, at an outrageous price.

It would have cost $2,400 per person for a one-way ticket which would take them not to DFW but to Miami, they said.

The round-trip tickets, which they weren't able to completely use, cost just $1,300, they said.

"They're saying to you, ‘You can come home but you are going to have to pay,’” Chris Snell said. “And you look at other nations like Germany, United Kingdom, Israel, they've executed more than 100 flights to repatriate thousands of citizens at no cost to those people."

Some visitors are waiting it out, sharing their stories on a Facebook page called "Americans Stuck in Peru."

Sheila and Kailah are able to stay with family in Peru's capital Lima and are trying to adjust as best they can.

Kailah even celebrated her 4th-grade graduation with her classmates online.

Snell family
Kailah Snell, 10, participated in her online 4th-grade graduation online from Peru.

But they're all getting tired and frustrated.

"I miss my husband like crazy,” Sheila Snell said. “I want to go home."

The U.S. State Department said it has coordinated repatriation flights for more than 85,000 Americans stranded in 131 countries, including Peru.

The government will loan money for the flights but the law requires that it be repaid.

The cost is often higher, partly because planes have to fly empty on the way to other countries, experts say.

The Snells aren't sure when the mother and daughter will return home but if the airports remain closed much longer, they reluctantly plan to pay the higher price for a government charter if they can find one.

*Map locations are approximate, central locations for the city and are not meant to indicate where actual infected people live.

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