Australians abroad aren’t holding out hope for charter flights

Australians stranded in the United Kingdom, India and South Africa have been told they’ll be given access to charter flights to come home between this month and March next year.

About 5,000 people stuck overseas will be able to fly back to Australia on eight flights as part of the Government arrangement.

They will have to quarantine in the Northern Territory at the state’s Howard Springs facility on their arrival.

The facility will process about 1,000 international returnees a month, on a fortnightly rotation of 500 people.

People in the UK who have been identified as “vulnerable” by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) are first in line.

On Friday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said about 4,000 Australians had been identified as vulnerable by DFAT, and that “just over a quarter have now been able to return to Australia”.

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Scott Morrison says about 5,000 extra people would be able to return on the flights.

That means there would be room for about 2,000 people not classified as vulnerable to fly back to Australia.

We spoke to some of the Aussies waiting to come home to find out how they felt about it all.

Jennifer Guy, Guildford, United Kingdom

Jennifer Guy has experienced a series of false starts and dashed hopes in her attempts to return to Townsville from the United Kingdom.

Originally booked to fly back to Australia permanently with her two kids on March 22, five days after DFAT urged overseas Australians to return home, she gave up her house.

Mother Jennifer Guy smiles with in an outdoor photo with her kids.
Jennifer Guy with her children Dan, 14, and Cailyn, 11.(Supplied: Jennifer Guy)

But her return has been hampered eight times through flights being changed or cancelled, or being bumped off as the airlines prioritise higher-paying business class passengers, leaving her family living in temporary accommodation week-to-week in Guildford, south-west of London.

While the nurse has been able to get back her old job, although on reduced hours, she has been juggling her living situation with her children being off school between March and September.

Facing the prospect of paying 20,000 pounds ($36,500) for business-class tickets, the next available economy tickets she could find were for January 2 with Qatar Airways.

While the charter flight may offer an opportunity to return home sooner, she says she does not have the extra $6,000 to cover the costs, although DFAT does offer grants and loans to help people cover some of the costs of one-way flights to Australia.

Given the number of stops and starts, Ms Guy wants to keep her options open and is reluctant to cancel her flights with Qatar Airways.

She does not mind flying into Darwin and quarantining in Howard Springs, she just wants to get back to Australia.

“We want to be home as soon as possible. We were supposed to be home in March,” Ms Guy said.

“I don’t know what we’ll do if we can’t get home on the second of January, because the school year starts,” she added.

She said it was “unfair and unreasonable” that the airlines were only bringing back business class passengers.

“They claim they’ve looked at our circumstances … but nobody from Qatar [Airways] had contacted me, so they didn’t know my circumstances,” she said.

Ms Guy said she felt the Australian embassy in London had not been “particularly helpful” to her plight, and was not sure if the Government’s plan would work.