A BRITISH couple took getting home from Cambodia into their own hands by chartering a flight back for over a hundred stranded nationals.
Schoolteacher Jerry Lewis, 49, and his wife Karen, 46, found themselves trapped in Cambodia as countries suddenly slammed their borders last month in response to the coronavirus pandemic while they were travelling around South East Asia.
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The couple were reportedly refused permission to continue from Cambodia to Vietnam and their visas were then cancelled.
Their Emirates flight home had also been cancelled and the Cambodian border with Thailand was closed so they were unable to take a flight there.
Jerry contacted the British Embassy but they just advised him to book flights out of the country, which just wasn’t happening.
So he got everyone together and contacted Malaysia Airlines about the possibility of organising a charter flight for himself, Karen and anyone they could rescue.
Through Facebook, the couple put together a list of 103 stranded UK citizens willing to cover the six-figure sum needed.
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Jerry said: “If I have to leave, the easiest way is on a plane. A [charter] plane for a few of us would be very expensive, a flight for 100 of us we could afford.”
He said the airline was very helpful and that he then contacted the British Embassy in Phnom Penh to get some support for his plan.
Jerry said: “Those last few days were traumatic. I put my head over the parapet. Basically, my wife and I did not sleep for a number of days.
“We had 100 people relying on us, as well as their parents and grandparents.
“I also had to deal with a load of people who thought I was a fraud and trying to scam people out of their money.”
However, he said that embassy officials just buried their heads in their sand and insisted on protocols that did not cover the unique situation they were in.
Jerry said: “They needed to tear up the manual and do things differently.
“They should have contacted me and got me on their team. I could have sorted out three flights by now and got everyone out of there. Their team is clearly not big enough and they seem overwhelmed.”
In spite of the setbacks, the flight left on March 27.
Up to a million Brits have had to rely on government help to get them home, including 400 who were left trapped in Peru when many South American countries closed all their borders.
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Now safely back in the UK, the Lewis’ want to help others still stranded by the COVID-19 lockdown.
The couple are trying to organise a second one to help Brits still stranded in the Southeast Asian country.
Since the lockdown the government has advised Brits to avoid travelling abroad “indefinitely”.
The Foreign Office has been approached for comment.
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