An Australian family stranded in London have expressed frustration their pet dog and cat have already arrived in Sydney while they are still stuck overseas.
Key points:The Fotheringhams’ pets were able to travel home as cargo while the family has been repeatedly bumped from flightsUp to 26,000 Australians still stranded overseas and trying to get homeThere are calls for greater support from the Federal Government to bring Australians home
The Fotheringhams have been in the UK for the past two and a half years and were in the process of moving back to Australia.
The family of four have had flights cancelled five times, but their pets were able to travel separately as cargo and arrived in Australia last month.
“It would be hilarious if it wasn’t tragic,” Craig Fotheringham told 7.30.
“It is a bit strange that our pets have made it back with an airline that bumped us.”
‘Tickets to nowhere’ The Fotheringhams are still trying to return from London.(Supplied: Craig Fotheringham)
Frankie, a miniature dachshund, and Stella, a ragdoll cat, made it to Sydney airport safely and are now being cared for by relatives.
But the Fotheringhams’ case highlights the predicament facing 26,000 Australians the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) estimates still want to come home.
Many have faced round after round of flight cancellations.
“Tickets to nowhere. It’s thousands and thousands of dollars,” Mr Fotheringham said.
Australians stranded overseas face two big problems: National Cabinet’s strict limits on international arrivals into Australia in line with hotel quarantine capacity, and the commercial realities faced by airlines which are struggling to remain viable in a global pandemic.
Travellers have told 7.30 they believe they have been regularly bumped from economy in favour of business class passengers.
“These airlines are losing millions and millions of dollars, it’s about containing those losses,” said aviation analyst Geoffrey Thomas.
“They’re simply not going to fly a 365-passenger plane to Australia with 20 economy class passengers paying $1,000 each. Not a chance.”
Stars, billionaires taking citizens’ airline seats Adrian Lister has been trying to return to Australia from Kazan in Russia.(Supplied: Adrian Lister)
Caps on international arrivals have created a bottleneck into Australia, with travellers arguing those who can’t pay big sums of money are priced out.
The recent decisions to allow actor Tom Hanks and British billionaire Lord Alan Sugar in for film and TV productions has angered some.
“Celebrities, movie stars, lords and ladies are coming into Australia,” said Adrian Lister, an Australian stranded in Kazan, Russia.
The former Navy lieutenant commander told 7.30 the Federal Government should be doing more to repatriate Australians by opening up more quarantine facilities.
“People are taking up seats on flights that could otherwise be taken up by citizens who actually have distressing emotional situations,” he said.
The National Cabinet has agreed to gradually increase the international intake so that by mid-October, about 5,500 international passengers a week will be allowed in.
That is an increase of about 1,600 arrivals a week.
The National Cabinet also agreed that special commercial services may operate through Adelaide, Darwin, Canberra and Hobart subject to quarantine capacity.
But Mr Thomas doubts it will be enough.
“Lifting the caps a little helps, but they have to lift them a lot more to make these flights viable,” he said.
“This is where the government has to step up and subsidise these flights to get Australians home.”
So far the Government has resisted calls from the Federal Opposition to organise charter flights as it has done in the past.
‘Family comes first’ Saskia Kleijn went to the Netherlands to support her ill mother before the pandemic struck.(Supplied: Saskia Kleijn)
For Australian resident Saskia Kleijn, it’s been a tough seven months in the Netherlands, after her mum was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
She left Australia for the city of Utrecht in February, well before the travel ban came into effect.
“Family comes first,” she told 7.30.
“When I got here, she was close to death, that’s how sick she was.
“I needed to be with my family, to support her and to go through the whole chemo process.”
With her mum now on the mend, Ms Kleijn has been trying to travel back to her husband and two boys in Brisbane without success.
“These kids need their mum,” she said.
Ms Kleijn hoped the Federal Government would do more to help stranded Australians return home before Christmas.
“Families are supposed to be together at that time of year,” she said.
“It’s important to be back together and for my own wellbeing too, for everyone involved, we just need to be together.”