Monday, March 23, 2020
States Department Arranges for British Jets to Pick Up U.S. Tourists
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Retired Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Burt Pines and wife Karen Pines are seen in a photo snapped Friday night in London where they landed after being flown from Morocco, where the airports had been closed to international flights. About 1,500 American tourists who had been stranded were extricated through arrangement by the U.S. State Department.
Retired Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Burt Pines and his wife, Karen Pines, have been extricated from Morocco where they were stranded with other tourists after the nation shut down its airports in light of the pandemic.
Through arrangement by the U.S. State Department, British jets were permitted to land and transport tourists to other locales.
“We’ve been rescued and what a relief!” Pines said in an email at about noon, Los Angeles time, on Friday.
“My wife and I just arrived in London and are exhausted.”
Taken by Surprise
In a phone conversation, he elaborated that when he and his wife arrived in Morocco on March 11, “there were no travel advisories.” Events moved quickly over the next week, he said, and the shutting down of the airports to international flights “without any advance notice” was “a total surprise.”
Pines related that he and others in their party—a guided tour—had been attempting since March 15 to leave Morocco. Most of them, he noted, are elderly.
He said the accommodations were “not uncomfortable,” the scenery is beautiful” and the people are pleasant, but there was the “stress of the unknown” and “concern for what might happen.”
The former Los Angeles city attorney recounted that French, British and German tourists were being evacuated, but “nothing was being done for Americans.”
CNN on Thursday reported on the plight of Pines and other American tourists. Responding to an emailed inquiry from the METNEWS that day, he remarked that “the U.S. government sent planes to evacuate Peace Corps personnel, but not other U.S. citizens.”
In the telephone interview on Friday, he attributed the rescue to coverage by CNN and other media outlets, as well as efforts by the tourists’ representatives in Congress. Pines related that he had been in contact with the offices of U.S. Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., and Rep. Ted W. Lieu, D-West Los Angeles.
At 1 a.m. on Friday, Moroccan time, Pines recounted, he received a phone call telling him that flights out of Morocco had been arranged. The State Department brought in seven British Airlines jets, he said, and about 1,500 American tourists were taken to various locations.
There were no non-stop flights to Los Angeles, the retired judge said.
“When the plane landed in London, everybody in the cabin applauded,” he reported.
Pines expressed the expectation that he and his wife would return home on a flight leaving Saturday morning.
“The State Department finally did act,” he remarked. “I’m just sorry it didn’t happen earlier.”
The tourists were not expecting to be flown out at government expense, he pointed out, as he had on Thursday. Pines said he and his wife were each paying $1,485 for the flights.
Copyright 2020, Metropolitan News Company