Australians stranded abroad are being made to play a game of fastest fingers first in order to secure seats on government-organised repatriation flights.
Australians stranded abroad are being made to play a game of fastest fingers first in order to secure seats on government-organised repatriation flights.

Aussies abroad on alert 24/7 as mercy flights sell out

AUSTRALIANS stranded abroad are being made to play a game of fastest fingers first in order to secure seats on government-organised repatriation flights, with tickets on two London to Darwin flights this week selling out within minutes.

It comes as national cabinet on Friday agreed to stick to its timeline of reverting Australia's international arrival cap to normal from February 15 and no earlier.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison did not commit to adding additional repatriation flights above and beyond the extra 20 announced by the government last Saturday.

He said national cabinet had agreed the "first priority" was the health and safety of those in Australia.

Those stuck abroad are wrestling a system where seats on repatriation flights are selling out minutes after the Department of Foreign Affair and Trade sends out the alert via email, which those in London say can happen in the middle of the night.

Stranded Australians say DFAT's process of email blasting people registered as wanting to go home, of which there are 38,000 worldwide, needs to change.

Madi Bowing said she and her partner Jordan Surkitt were "seriously lucky" to secure seats on a London to Darwin repatriation flight that departed the UK on January 15.

"Our lives for the last three to four months has revolved completely around checking government websites, airlines, Facebook and the media for up to date information," she said.

"The Australian government decide to send these (repatriation flight) emails at a ridiculous time for UK time zones (usually between 4am and 6am), so by the time you wake up, check your emails, a lot are sold out.

 

Jordan Surkitt and Madi Bowing arrived in Darwin from London on a repatriation flight and are in quarantine at the Howard Spring's facility. PICTURE: Supplied
Jordan Surkitt and Madi Bowing arrived in Darwin from London on a repatriation flight and are in quarantine at the Howard Spring's facility. PICTURE: Supplied

 

"It was purely a case of checking emails at the right time, and getting seriously lucky.

Ms Bowing, who is currently in quarantine at Darwin's Howard Springs Centre for National Resilience, said a better system that prioritised people based on vulnerability levels needed to be put in place.

DFAT did not respond to questions by deadline.

The NT's quarantine capacity for international arrivals is set to hit 850 people per fortnight, up from 500, in the coming weeks.

Ms Bowing said she couldn't fault the no frills facility and its "accommodating" and "lovely" staff.

Since repatriation flights to the NT began on October 23, 3054 repatriated Australians have undertaken quarantine at Howard Springs and 61 people have tested positive for COVID-19, including two which were recorded on Friday.

Originally published as Aussies stranded abroad on alert 24/7 as mercy flight seats sell out in minutes


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