'This is a 24/7 job': State Department's playbook for getting stranded Americans home

Others, however, illustrate the bruising for State Department officials in the face of growing uncertainty and the difficult diplomatic environment in which countries are abruptly stopping travel.

“This is a 24/7 job,” the document says. It is recommended to set up a call center and put together shifts, with a team working on the phones, even if other employees are checking in passengers at the airport.

Another point outlines the uncertainty that the government faces on these flights. “Expect people to constantly change their minds and then change them again,” wrote the Morocco staff. For their flights, only 50 percent of American citizens who said they would be leaving eventually came to the airport, according to the document: “We even saw Amcits change their minds at the airport with their luggage packed.”

The document recommends filling every seat on the plane, including holding as long as possible while there are empty seats, while tweets and other messages are being fired to try to find others who occupy those seats. “Hold on,” it says.

As a last resort, the document points out that other citizens who have permission to enter the United States, such as Canadians or Britons, may go on board – provided they sign the same promissory note as Americans who fly home.

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“It would not be helpful if one of them tweeted: ‘Thanks for the free flight, America!'” Says the document.

The State Department said on Sunday that it has reduced 22,251 US citizens to more than 230 flights since January 29 and received nearly 15,000 calls since March 21.

Commercial airlines have been heavily involved in efforts to track down stranded Americans.

According to United Airlines, more than 30 return flights have so far been carried out and around 4,500 people have been returned to the United States. The airline says another ten flights from cities in Honduras, Peru and El Salvador are planned this week.

American Airlines has operated special flights from cities in Honduras, Peru and Brazil to bring people home. This included daily flights from Lima from March 27th until today.

Delta Air Lines has completed at least 15 return flights, including flights from Argentina, Chile, El Salvador, Guatemala, South Korea and the Philippines, and a charter flight from Italy. In addition, a spokeswoman said the airline had “planned or considered about a dozen charters.”

Despite these successes, the problems remain at some focal points.

Sara Goico, a UCLA postdoctoral researcher who has been trying to get out of Iquitos, Peru for two weeks, said she was eliminated from a state-chartered flight to Miami by misunderstanding and confusion between the State Department and a nonprofit rescue group called Warrior Angels Rescue.

She had registered with the embassy, ​​but the embassy ultimately only contacted Americans who filled out a separate Google form organized by the little-known nonprofit organization – which Goico had avoided due to the embassy’s warnings of possible fraud.

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