UPDATED: Duncan woman trying to get home from Uganda

Flights hard to come by during COVID-19 pandemic

UPDATE: Just before publication of this story, the Citizen received word that Leslie Healy did book a flight from Uganda to Amsterdam on Wednesday, followed by a flight from Amsterdam to Vancouver. More details to come.

A Duncan woman is stranded in Uganda and unable to get back to Canada because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Leslie Healy left for Uganda in November 2019 on a church mission, and was originally scheduled to return in early April. She rebooked her trip to return sooner, but was turned away at the airport in Uganda because her flight home stopped in the U.S. before connecting to Canada. Healy is now waiting in Uganda, hoping the Canadian government can help her get home.

”[Healy] is the most beautiful, caring person you will ever meet and is always helping others,” her friend Jane Sheers said in a plea to the Citizen. “It’s our turn to help Leslie. We need to get her home safe.”

According to Healy’s son, Jame, as of Tuesday afternoon, Healy was hoping to catch a flight from Uganda to Amsterdam on Wednesday morning. The flight was fully booked, but seats do come open at the last minute, Jame noted optimistically.

“It’s probably the last commercial flight,” he added.

If she can make it to Amsterdam, Jame said, getting back to Canada shouldn’t be difficult. If she can’t make it on the KLM flight, her family is hoping a repatriation flight can be set up by the Canadian government.

“It’s frustrating, of course,” said Jame, who lives in New Westminster. “It’s really no-one’s fault. We know the government is taxed. It’s a unique situation, it just happens to be personal for me.”

After rebooking her April 4 flight, Healy was scheduled to leave Uganda’s Entebbe International Airport on March 26, travelling through Dubai to Seattle, then taking a March 27 flight from Seattle to Victoria. She then tried to rebook again, but her new ticket did not include the last leg from Seattle to Victoria, so she had a family member arrange for her to fly from to Seattle to Vancouver and from Vancouver to Nanaimo.

When word came that the Canada-U.S. border would be closed before she was scheduled to return home, Healy tried once again to change her ticket. Flights out of Entebbe to Dubai were booked for the weekend, but as she spoke to a ticket agent, a vacancy came open for Sunday. She snapped it up and was relieved to be headed home the next day.

She arrived at the airport at 10 a.m. on Sunday, four hours ahead of her check-in time, but when time came to check in, she was taken out of the lineup by Emirates (the airline) officials and told she could not fly because she is not a U.S. citizen and their computers didn’t show the final leg of her journey from Seattle to Canada, which had been booked separately. Healy attempted to fly just from Entebbe to Dubai, from where she might have been able to reach Canada, but was also denied entry to the United Arab Emirates.

“I do not know what the Canadian government can do with this country [Uganda] locked down as it is,” Healy said in an email to the Canadian government’s Emergency Watch and Response Centre that was forwarded to the Citizen. “But I would like to come home.”

The Healy family has been in touch with Cowichan-Malahat-Langford MP Alistair MacGregor’s office, but they are also limited in how much they can help.

“They were quite nice, but there’s not much they can do,” Jame said. “There’s no precedent for this. It would just be nice to have her home.”

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