Joseph Mancuso of Phoenix, Ariz., woke up at 6 a.m. on Friday to an email from a U.S. State Department email address that said he should send information about himself, including his name, passport number, gender, email address, phone number and the earliest time he could arrive in Marrakesh on Friday if he wanted to take a chartered flight home.
Mr. Mancuso, who works in Dubai, had been in Morocco for two weeks and was among the thousands of Americans who have been stranded in Morocco since the kingdom announced that it was suspending all flights into and out of the country on Sunday.
Around 8:30 a.m. he received confirmation that he had a seat on a flight. Using a WhatsApp group with more than 100 other Americans also trying to leave Morocco, he made plans to share a taxi from Casablanca, where he was, to Marrakesh Menara Airport, where British Airways flights would be leaving. The drive took two-and-and-a-half hours.
“At the airport they did a quick fact check, I had to fill out some paperwork from the consulate or embassy and then walk to a B.A. check-in counter,” Mr. Mancuso said. “ From the time I got to the airport to now it’s been under an hour. It’s been so organized.”
In an email sent to Americans enrolled in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program just after midnight on March 20, the State Department and the U.S. Mission to Morocco said that they had arranged for American citizens and permanent U.S. residents who had been stranded in Morocco to fly home. The flights would leave from Marrakesh Menara Airport on Friday, beginning at 11:30 a.m.
The flights are going from Marrakesh to London then to one of 10 cities in the United States that are served by British Airways and have been designated as entry points during the coronavirus crisis.
Some Americans who were on the first flights out of Morocco said that upon exiting the plane in London, they were given hotel vouchers for Friday and their flights to the United States will leave London on Saturday.
The one-way flights cost $1,485; those who are taking them have to sign a promissory note for the airfare, promising to reimburse the government for the flight. Cash and credit cards are not being accepted, only checks.
Thousands of Americans have been stuck in Morocco, according to the American ambassador, David T. Fischer. Many of them had complained that the American government had done little to help them, even as British and French authorities were scrambling to bring their citizens home.
Some travelers, like Mary Marland of Boulder, Colo., spent days trying to get flights back to the United States, and ended up taking repatriation flights that the British and French governments arranged for their citizens. Earlier in the week, American travelers had been unsure of whether they would be allowed on the flights since they weren’t from the countries that arranged for the trips.
“We left Marrakesh on Ryanair to London last night and are now on the plane to take off to Chicago,” Ms. Marland said in a WhatsApp message. “Tickets were under $500 per person on United — significantly less than what the U.S. repatriation flights are charging.”
In the WhatsApp group many people said they felt that the cost of the flight was too high.
President Trump was asked about the stranded travelers at a news conference on Thursday, and he said, “We know about it,” and then addressed the issue of stranded travelers in Peru.
On Thursday afternoon, Mr. Fischer said in a video posted to the embassy on Morocco’s Twitter and Facebook pages that the safety of Americans abroad was a priority for the State Department.
“We have received your phone calls, your emails, we’ve heard the stories, and as soon as we have guidance we will be sending a message via email to everyone enrolled in our S.T.E.P system.”