Aussies’ extreme move after bumped flight
When Australians Andy McIver and his wife Jess were left homeless and jobless in New Zealand, they found themselves unable to make the three hour trip home to Brisbane, instead having "no other option" than to move 27 hours across the world.
They're two of an estimated 25,000 Australians registered overseas who are trying to return home.
Since March, international arrivals have been limited to repatriating Australians, but most recently only 4000 people have been able to land each week as the country tried to stem the spread of coronavirus.
While that flight cap was this week increased to 6000 people, Mr McIver says it's not enough, and that Prime Minister Scott Morrison should try harder to protect people like him.
"Out of sight, out of mind should not be his attitude to the people who put him in charge," Mr McIver said.
"It's his job to protect all Australians, wherever they are in the world."
MY OWN COUNTRY WON'T TAKE ME
Mr and Mrs McIver had been living, working and studying in Southland, New Zealand, for about a year when the pandemic hit.
When Mr Morrison advised expats back in March to stay put if they were able, Mr McIver listened. Once case numbers subsided on both sides of the Tasman, the McIvers started the process to move back to Brisbane, including packing a shipping container and moving two dogs and a car.
They gave their notice at work and on their rental home on July 7, and booked a flight to Brisbane for August 27, but within those seven weeks, Victoria's second wave hit.
"The flight cap was put in place and we were bumped off our confirmed flight home for a flight six weeks later in mid-October," Mr McIver said.
"We were stranded, homeless and without anything."
The pair could see only one option: booking a flight to the United Kingdom.
"The alternative was two months of hotel accommodation, which would have caused incredible mental strain of not having control of our future," Mr McIver said.
They booked a flight to London on August 18, and four days later were self-isolating in a flat in West Sussex.
"We have no idea when we will be able to return (to Australia). We are not willing to pay $20,000 to book business class flights and then potentially find out the next day that the cap is lifted and airlines will be able to afford to fly again with economy passengers," Mr McIver said.
"The government says we'll have you home by Christmas, but from where I'm sitting the government has no sense of reality.
"It is insane, that two Australians could more easily fly to the other side of the world than a three-hour flight to Brisbane.
"The UK let us in without question, but the Australian government didn't care what happened to us."
A WHOLE OTHER PERSON TO THINK OF
Kelly* has worked for a travel company in Austria for eight years. Months before the COVID-19 pandemic, she and her husband made the decision to return home to Australia this year.
In March, she lost her job in a senior management role. In May, she and her husband became pregnant for the first time, which has put a "ticking clock" on their plans to leave.
"In August, after much planning, we booked our flights to Sydney with Qatar airways for October 17. Two seats, one way, in economy class. It was triple the normal price at €4500 for two travellers," she said.
Kelly said the lack of transparency on who approves the "list" of who gets onto the flights into Sydney is creating the most anxiety.
"We just don't know if my pregnancy and the high price we paid for our tickets will secure us a seat. Does the government have an overview and decide who gets a golden ticket? Or Qatar Airways?" she said.
"Of course, we are also anxious that we sell all our possessions, pack all our stuff, pay for a shipping container, and hand in our apartment keys, only to be turned away on the day of our flight, left with nowhere to go.
"We are in purgatory … Moving house and pregnancy are stressful in the best conditions, but this uncertainty is unbearable."
Kelly has written to ministers and been met with silence, saying the lack of "mateship" had been heartbreaking.
"That trust in my fellow Aussies to always support each other, and those in need, is being completely undermined," she said.
Kelly's baby is due in February, and fears if she is not on her October flight back to Australia, she will not make it home in time to give birth.
"I'm terrified we will miss the chance of safe flying time," she said.
"Scott Morrison's 'before Christmas' will be too late for us … We will be left here, jobless, homeless, with a baby on the way.
"It's our right as citizens to return home. No one is asking for handouts, and we're happy to quarantine - we just need a fair go to get home."
Originally published as Aussies' extreme move after bumped flight