Zach’s journey to Australia has been a long time coming, as you know he graduated from McGill in June this year and had been trying to get a flight.
To say this has been a frustrating process given the current circumstances is a huge understatement.
It seemed as though his efforts were being constantly thwarted at every turn until earlier this week. The price to fly economy, one way is between $8000 – $10,000 which is five times the non-covid rate…
At this price it’s pretty much unattainable for almost any Australian wanting to repatriate and come home. And this is just the flight cost, not to mention the mandatory $3000 hotel quarantine that every returning traveller must endure.
Although personally I’m okay with a quarantine in the short term it seems out of place in the longer-term view, especially with vaccinated travellers.
Can you imagine a family of four trying to get home – 4 x $8000 (minimum) for flights plus 4 x $5000 (family discount for 14 days of hotel quarantine) comes out to a whopping $37,000.
No wonder there are so many Australians stranded overseas, in fact an estimated 35,000 – 40,000 in total are stuck in various parts of the world.
Here’s the kicker though, our national airline, QANTAS is restricted from flying internationally. Therefore, any returning travellers are restricted to United Airlines, Delta, American Airlines, Singapore Airlines, ANA, Air Niugini, Etihad, Emirates and Qatar Airlines.
Zach had been scouring the airlines for any lower prices, and eventually got a better deal so booked to fly on July 19th.
However, that was before the government in “Fortress Australia” decided to minimize the delta variant from entering the country and imposed further limitations. They decided to cut the number of returning travellers by 75% starting July 14th for the foreseeable future.
Just when he thought he would be able to make it back…his plans were dashed!
Back to the beginning…
As you can imagine this situation added significant stress to an already anxious Zach and I could see that his emotional state was not good… However, with me being here in Australia I was helpless to assist other than be there for him on the phone of via video chat.
Clearly a stressful situation for everyone.
However, my ex stepped in and paid for a flight for him that left Saturday morning (July 10), which was incredibly generous.
Now he had a different set of stress.
With only two days to say his goodbyes, pack and get on a plane there wasn’t time to see his friends and family (Sam or his grandparents).
Lots of paperwork to sort out, update his registration details, including flight changes with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), getting a Covid test within 48 hours of his flights with negative results, plus airline registration forms.
With such a short time he was worried that he may have missed some bit of information that he’d have to complete thus stopping him from flying.
Between governments, airlines, and outside agencies it’s hard to ensure you have ticked all the boxes, especially as the rules are “fluid” if you know what I mean. The rules, regulations and procedures can all change from one day to the next and near impossible to stay on top of.
The good thing is that he is fully vaccinated after having his two Pfizer shots. This is huge plus!
His itinerary has him flying from Toronto to Vancouver on Air Canada then checking into United Airlines that would see him fly to Los Angeles before catching his 14+ hour flight to Sydney.
All went well until he got to Vancouver…
Here’s where things got sticky!
He had all his paperwork, except for the online DFAT attestation form that needed to be approved by the Australian Government before he could fly. It can only be filled out online and no more than 72 hours before travelling.
The United Airlines team explained to him that this had to be approved before they could check him in, and that it could possibly take up to 72 hours to be approved…crap!!!
Here we go again was his immediate reaction, but because he had arrived early in Vancouver he quickly went online completed and submitted the form.
Less than 30 minutes later he was approved by the Australian government and was able to check in.
He then boarded his flight in Vancouver, with his bags checked all the way through to Sydney. This definitely gave his piece of mind but wasn’t able to fully accept it until he was on the plane to Sydney.
After a lengthy 7-hour stopover in Los Angeles airport (LAX) he successfully boarded his flight. We face timed before he left LA and I could tell that it was starting to hit home…he was on his way. He was very excited about being here – less so about the 14+ hour flight.
This improbable outcome came together in a mere 48 hours after a lot of anguish and anxiety over the past few months of uncertainty…
The great news is that I got a text from Zach when he landed in Sydney safely this morning, just a day before the new quotas came into effect… Wow that was cutting it fine!
Now he has only to endure his two week quarantine period before he’ll be here in Queensland. I can’t wait!
Until next week