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Stranded in South America: Couple trying to get home to Houston after COVID-19 travel restrictions tighten in Argentina

Land borders in Argentina are closed and airlines are struggling to accommodate passengers on a limited number of flights back to the U.S.

HOUSTON — A family is stranded in South America and they're unable to get home to Houston. Last-minute travel restrictions went into effect in the middle of their trip, land borders have closed and airlines are cutting back flights to Argentina.

"This is a trip they try and do every year," Santiago Cirnigliaro said.

Santiago's parents, Carlos and Graciela, got vaccinated, masked up and headed down to Buenos Aires, Argentina, on June 19. It was supposed to be a quick two-week trip to visit sick family members.

"They were supposed to fly back on Saturday and land in Dallas on Saturday and fly back to Houston," Santiago said. "They were supposed to be home by now."

But COVID-19 had other plans. The virus is still raging in Argentina. It prompted the country to lock down land borders and now only 600 international travelers are allowed in the country every day. That means U.S. airlines started canceling flights.

"When they talk to the airlines, they said they won't be able to start anything up until Aug. 1 at the earliest," Santiago said.

And that's if COVID cases start dropping. If they don't, Carlos and Graciela could be waiting much longer. And that's not an option. Graciela needs heart medication that runs out in days and Carlos has a job he needs to get back to.

"They're stressed out," Santiago said.

The family explored driving to neighboring Uruguay to fly home from there.

"With everything being closed, there's nothing they can do," Santiago said.

The U.S. Embassy in Argentina was a dead end, too. And now Santiago is hoping lawmakers like Sen. Ted Cruz can intervene to help get these two stranded Houstonians home.

"There's people still stuck abroad after a year of COVID-19, we want to get it resolved and bring them back home," Santiago said.

U.S. airlines have a handful of flights departing to the U.S. from Argentina in the next few days. That all ends on July 12.

American Airlines sent us this statement:

“We are currently operating a limited number of flights to and from Argentina, in accordance with current restrictions in the country. We apologize to our customers for any inconveniences as we work to accommodate our passengers.”