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US citizens stranded in Latin America, Caribbean coming home on Spirit, American airlines

A Spirit Airlines jetliner at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. The airline is among those that are helping to repatriate thousands of U.S. citizens stranded in other countries by travel restrictions imposed by foreign governments. The U.S. government is also discouraging travel abroad. (Joe Cavaretta/Sun Sentinel/TNS)

Thousands of U.S. citizens stranded in Latin America and the Caribbean are getting a ride home on Spirit and American airlines.

Travelers were stuck after many governments, including the U.S., banned air travel between countries to help curb the spread of coronavirus.

Spirit, which is based in Miramar, said Tuesday it has flown 1,300 people home thus far and is scheduled to bring back hundreds more over the next week to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

In the weeks after the coronavirus pandemic slowed domestic and international air travel to a near halt, American vacationers and business people had been struggling to return to the U.S. from Colombia, Panama, Haiti, Aruba, the Dominican Republic, and Honduras, Spirit said.

Americans contemplating international travel are under a “do not travel” advisory issued March 31 by the U.S. State Department.

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“We’ve been working closely with the U.S. embassies in all of these regions to get American citizens and legal permanent residents back to the states, so it was anyone who needed to come back home, whether they were previous Spirit guests or not,” said Spirit spokeswoman Sabrina Gaggia in an email Tuesday.

Two flights are scheduled to land in Fort Lauderdale on Wednesday out of Aruba via Cartagena, Colombia, and from Bogota, Colombia. Spirit has scheduled several more flights to pick up Americans in other countries over the next week.

Since early April, the airline says it has operated flights to pick up U.S. citizens, residents and family members who have been unable to get home since flight restrictions took effect in mid-March.

According to Foreign Policy magazine, 9,000 U.S. citizens have been expatriated from 28 countries since last month. Many of those trips home have been made possible by airlines whose routes include affected countries.

American says it has flown 88 flights filled with Americans stuck in Latin American and Caribbean countries since the coronavirus disrupted air service to and from those regions.

On March 30, for example, it operated a repatriation flight chartered by the U.S. State Department between Lima, Peru, and Miami International Airport. Carrying more than 200 U.S. citizens, it flew out of a Peruvian military base adjacent to Jorge Chavez International Airport, where commercial flights typically depart from Lima.

American said the charter was one of six repatriation flights the airline flew from Peru.

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© 2020 the Sun Sentinel