BERLIN — Before taking off from London’s Heathrow Airport on Sunday evening, the cabin crew of the last Eurowings flight to Stuttgart, Germany warned its passengers that because of the new coronavirus mutation they risked spending the night at the airport.
“They are partitioning off a part of the airport — all I can say is cots,” the announcement said, according to a recording cited by German media.
Air passengers from the United Kingdom were detained at German airports on Sunday night after the country had decided to stop incoming flights in a bid to prevent the spread of a new mutation of the coronavirus.
While the German health minister confirmed an official stop to flights from the U.K. and South Africa starting at midnight, hundreds of travelers who touched down between the time the decision was communicated, in the late afternoon, and the official rule was in place had to wait for coronavirus test results before being allowed to leave airports.
Depending on scrambling local health authorities, the procedure varied from place to place.
In Hanover, where a flight from London landed at 6:45 p.m., all 63 passengers had to take a PCR test when stepping off the flight. One passenger refused to take the test and flew back to Britain. The others had to wait until the next morning, when the results were available. One positive case was found, according to health authorities.
“We tried to make the wait as comfortable as possible,” said Kristin Peschel, a spokeswoman for the airport.
Despite the food, bottled water and field beds provided by the airport, passengers demanded to speak with lawyers and even filmed a dramatic video which was broadcast by the country’s main tabloid, the Bild Zeitung. “We are held against our will,” one passenger identified as Manuela T. said in the clip.
At the country’s busiest airport in Frankfurt, roughly 100 passengers were still waiting for test results by midday, according to a spokesman. About 200 travelers had been detained overnight waiting for their test results. A Lufthansa flight from South Africa that had left before the rules were in effect arrived in Frankfurt on Monday morning. In accordance with local health rules, German passengers were allowed to go home to quarantine, while non-Germans were kept at the airport until negative test results were available.
At the new Berlin airport, German passengers were also allowed to go home to follow normal quarantine rules. After several hours, non-German passengers with residence in Germany were allowed to go home to quarantine. Foreign passengers without residence had to spend the night at the terminal to get in line for a coronavirus test when the center there opened at 7 a.m.
Despite the preflight warning, passengers arriving in Stuttgart might have had it the easiest. Local authorities had organized a coronavirus quick-test line. Within two hours all 150 passengers arriving were able to test and leave the airport, according to an airport spokesman.