As the title suggests, we feel abandoned in Australia. Our flights have been cancelled, our rescheduled flights have been cancelled and no-one is answering our calls. This pandemic has truly brought the world to its knees and we’ve been stranded in Australia. Luckily though, we managed to book tickets on a flight next Sunday and now praying that it does not get cancelled and we can get to Perth!
Why Are We Still Travelling?
When we first left home for our trip back to Australia, there were no instructions to not travel. It was more like use your common sense and don’t travel to infected areas. Maybe it was a mistake but then again, were we to just accept defeat and lose our money? It’s not like it was a package holiday and we could get refunds from a travel agent. I’ve seen some people say those still travelling are selfish and all that nonsense. Call it what you like. If they could, I can guarantee they would make the same choice. I’m starting to get sick of people calling out those travelling. It’s as though we were meant to know that this would have turned into the sh*t show that it has. So in answer to the question ‘why are we still travelling?’… because we don’t have a choice. Our flights have been cancelled, our rescheduled flights also cancelled, state borders are closed and now transit airports are also closed.
Who Have We Contacted?
Since we learned that our original flight got cancelled, we’ve contacted multiple companies to get advice on what to do and how they can help. Even if it was just as simple as advice or perhaps a refund. That way we could use the money another way, for instance accommodation if we are truly stuck here. Let’s start with the easy one…
So we booked our flights through STA. Like we have done in the past. This time though, when calling them to ask advice, we waited 3 hours in a queue (fair enough, we’re not the only ones) but then when we got through and started to arrange alternative options, the line went dead. We tried calling multiple times after that and got nowhere. Finally and miraculously, the first lady we spoke to called back and said there was a flight from Sydney and we would only have to pay £94 for taxes. Smashing, we booked it, paid the money and that was that. Under 12 hours later… cancelled. We tried multiple times to call back again and when we finally got through to ask for a refund for a) that £94 worth of taxes and b) our original flight so that we could arrange a flight home we got told that we can only get a travel voucher. Sounds alright in a way? Not if there’s a flight we see to get home and have to book immediately. No, we’d have to wait in a call queue for however long, go through the long drawn out process of speaking to someone on the phone instead of booking that flight immediately. Mind you, that doesn’t always work out either…
That brings me on to Virgin. Once our homeward journey was rearranged, we had to get to Sydney for the departure. So we booked the best flights we found so we weren’t in Sydney for absolute ages (they have far too many cases to risk it). Virgin Australia offered a decent price for a good flight. Again, within 12 hours it was cancelled. They never even had the decency to email us and let us know. It was only by luck that Suzanne thought to check the website. Tried calling to get a refund… unavailable. I tried this number multiple times, tried other numbers and all unavailable. I emailed them, nothing back. Soon as I mentioned them on twitter though, quickest response I’ve had from a company! They told me to directly message them on Twitter to solve the issue. Well I did, guess what? They directed me straight to their website and the phone number that was unavailable. Vicious circle to be stuck in. Absolute shambles of a company. Someone will man the Twitter profile but answer a phone call? Nope. No chance.
We booked our original domestic flights from Darwin to Port Lincoln and Port Lincoln to Perth via Kiwi.com. A fairly reputable company with decent reviews and prices. Once the state borders were closed and we wouldn’t be flying anywhere, we cancelled our flights and requested a refund. SIX BLOODY MONTHS it said. How can it take SIX BLOODY MONTHS to put money back into my account when it takes milliseconds for them to take it? Sure, they may have to contact the airlines to receive money back but six months is a bit far considering they can offer you travel credit on the spot. Tried calling them to see if there was a way to speed up this process and you’ll never guess what… unavailable.
The British Consulate
Whenever a British citizen gets stranded abroad or has issues, who do you call? Not the bloody Consulate anyway. They folks are about as much use as a blind lifeguard. Like all other companies… multiple calls and no answer. I finally got in touch with a lady at the Darwin British Consulate who started off extremely useful. That never lasted long, the poor woman was an ‘honorary consular’ or something. To be fair, she tried contacting the Brisbane Consulate who replied they were in crisis mode. Again, fair enough, but then we were told to book flights to get out. The suggested flights were either $11,000 or $6,300 per person. We’re not rich, we don’t have that sort of money. Absolute scumbag move from travel companies trying to charge that to stranded citizens. We were advised to register our details on the F.C.O. website for any updates. It’s been at least 3 days now and still not a peep. We were also advised to contact local MP’s to raise the issue back home… no point in starting another paragraph to tell you we got the same advice and to sum up that we are pretty much on our own.
All our tours were booked through Happy Travel. Most of them went ahead as planned and were excellent. However, our Kakadu 2 day tour and my cage dive with sharks couldn’t go ahead. So as always, tried to contact in regards to a refund and you’ll never guess what… not available. We went in to multiple stores to ask about it, kept getting the same answer – call the help centre. More useless information and absolutely no help whatsoever. No replies to my emails either, I did receive an email saying that the help centre would be closed as of 23rd March but I contacted them a few days prior to that… so pretty much, they couldn’t be bothered replying. Even just a wee acknowledgement to say, that they had received my email and would be in touch in due course regarding a refund. Nada.
Bank of Scotland
This is probably my favourite one. Called Bank of Scotland as a last ditch attempt to claim my money back as I paid for the flights on my credit card. I explained the situation to the girl and was given the advice, “maybe you should stop booking flights if they are all being cancelled”. Aye, that’s right, back when we originally booked our trip and flights, we knew our flights were going to be cancelled. That was our plan all along. Get stranded in Australia. Bank of Scotland haven’t let us down as much as the other companies but I had to include it purely for that story. I called back a day later and got a different lady who was more understanding but could still offer no assistance in returning the money to me.
Go Walkabout Travel Insurance
After reaching out to my travel insurance, I was told that they would not cover any additional costs due to the coronavirus. These include emergency flights home, costs for isolation period abroad and cutting the trip short. Despite the fact that ‘cutting the trip short’ was actually included in my policy. Apparently pandemics aren’t included in policies. If you ask me, Go Walkabout Travel Insurance are just con artists with a fancy name. Now, because of these scammers, I’m out of pocket by around £1,500 for flights from Darwin – Perth and then Perth – Edinburgh. I WOULD NOT advise taking travel insurance with Go Walkabout UK. Suzanne’s had no issue with her travel insurance at Admiral and will be able to claim back her emergency flight costs and any additional costs that may occur.
Metro Advance Hotel, Darwin
At least one company has been helpful to us. That would be our accommodation in Darwin who are very understanding of the situation and have offered us a weekly rate at a discounted price. How great is that? Absolute excellent customer service and care. If it weren’t for them… well who knows where we would be!
Now I know you’ll be thinking I’m being unfair and they’ll all be busy during this time and that we’ll not be the only ones who are contacting them. Then why are Virgin so happy to take our money and then cancel our flight and not even let us know? Why after 3 or 4 days of calling will the Consulate not take our call? All we would like is a refund, I’ve processed enough of them in my time to know it doesn’t take that long. I guess that’s the way the world is though, businesses are more than happy to take your money but soon as something goes wrong, they leave you in the sh*t. I worked it out the other night and between all our cancelled flights and tours, we are out of pocket by around £1,500 each. Sickening doesn’t even cover it.
I’m sorry this post has went on for so long and felt like a rant. I just had to let it out and name the companies that have let us down. Someone’s got to do it. I feel bad complaining that I’m stuck in Australia whilst thousands are losing their lives but I’d like to be home and with my loved ones during this. God forbid anything were to happen to myself, Suzanne or any of our loved ones, what would happen then? Usually I’m easy going and go where life takes me but this is different. The world is on melt down. Things can only get better from here, surely. For now though, we are abandoned in Australia. Well, until Sunday 5th April!
Cheers for reading,