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Manchester family struggles to return from trip abroad due to coronavirus concerns

MANCHESTER, Iowa (KWWL) -- It was a vacation the Bennett family had been planning since November and now its one they'll likely always remember.

Amy and Mark Bennett Jr. along with their son have been struggling to return to the state following sudden travel restrictions put in place by the US and other countries due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"As soon as we got word that it would be wise to think about coming back earlier, there were no flights and now we've spent the entire week reaching out to anyone and everyone," Amy Bennett said via phone.

Currently, the family is staying in Honduras with a friend. Before they departed, Bennett says they reached out to multiple entities to see if they could still travel and all said they were good to go.

The next day, Bennett says the White House issued a recommendation that all Americans return from trips abroad or be prepared to stay for an indefinite amount of time. Honduras also put in strict travel recommendations to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

For about a week before speaking with KWWL, Bennett says they were calling each of the three major airlines which would be United, American, and Delta to find a flight home. The airlines referred them to the US Embassy which then referred them back to the airlines.

The Bennetts say they reached out to Iowa legislators, Representative Abby Finkenauer and Senator Chuck Grassley, for help to get them home. Amy Bennett fears the US fell behind in efforts to get Americans home, saying she saw Canadian and Mexican nationals retrieved through efforts by their respective country's consulate.

In a message to KWWL, Amy says they're hopeful to board a plane Wednesday. Both United and American Airlines have since resumed sending planes to the country after working with the State Department.

"In light of the extraordinary situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and as countries close borders and commercial transportation availability declines, the Department has activated a 24/7 Task Force to support U.S. citizens and repatriation  operations." A State Department official wrote to KWWL. "We continue to urge American citizens to utilize commercial transportation options where available. The Task Force will work closely with US government and private sector partners, as well as Embassies and Consulates around the world, to evaluate assistance options to protect the safety and welfare of US citizens abroad."

Only American Airlines responded to our request for comment, saying that they "tried to give as much notice as possible to our customers." The airline said they were continuing to work with the State Department.

As of Monday, multiple news outlets reported that at least 13, 500 were struggling to get home from trips overseas.

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Taylor Vessel

Multimedia Reporter

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