‘It was no joke’ - Norwich friends’ dramatic journey home after week in New Delhi airport

Diane Want and Sue Smith who have safely made it home to Norwich after being stranded in Delhi airpo

Diane Want and Sue Smith who have safely made it home to Norwich after being stranded in Delhi airport. Pic: Claire Gebbett. - Credit: Claire Gebbett

Two women who lived in New Delhi airport after India went into lockdown are safely back home in Norwich.

Sue Smith, 73 and her friend Diane Want, 63, went to India at the beginning of March for what was intended to be a month-long trip.

However, when the British government advised all those who were abroad to return to the UK because of the coronavirus the pair found themselves stuck and unable to catch a flight home.

Now, after a week-long ordeal, which included an internal flight, a tense taxi ride, several nights sleeping in an airport lounge, the kindness of multiple strangers and a flight to Tokyo, the pair are home.

The duo managed to leave India on Friday, March 27, after boarding a flight to Tokyo. Mrs Smith said: “It just so happened that this young Finnish man said that Japanese Airlines were talking to an American woman, [to get her out].

“I spoke to Diane, [we were able to buy a ticket] and they held the plane for us, it was quite hairy because it was getting dark and we couldn’t see where we were going.

“Right up until we got on the plane we weren’t sure it was real.”

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However, while the pair were in the air, Japan shut its borders. Mrs Smith said when they landed the Japanese authorities were surprised to see them.

“They were quite horrified that we were there, they were very nice about it but they were quite shocked [to see us],” she said.

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The pair were permitted to change their onward ticket, which had originally been for Moscow, and board a flight to Heathrow, arriving home on Sunday, March 29.

Mrs Smith said the enormity of the past week didn’t hit her until Monday: “When I thought about it I had to pinch myself. I was quite emotional about what had happened.

“A week in an airport lounge like [Delhi] is no joke.”

Back home, Mrs Smith said she was self-isolating for at least two weeks, and was incredibly grateful to all those who had helped her and Ms Want and empathised with those still abroad.

“We’re very grateful to people who gave us food, most people were sympathetic to our situation and we’re grateful to our families,” she said.

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