We touched down in Sydney and immediately transferred over to the international airport to get checked in for the next flight. The check in lady handed us our boarding passes and I asked if there were any issues with the flight. She looked confused. I told her about the cancellations and trouble transiting back to UK and she shook her head, smiling, saying, ‘No, no, everything is fine!’ A part of me won’t trust this until we are on the second leg of the flight but at the same time it was reassuring.
Part of the reason for the expense of the flights is that only business class was available but at least we got to use the lounge, albeit it briefly, to grab some food and by the time we got to our gate they were boarding.
Because of the rush I didn’t have time to write anything so I’m now writing from my plush little booth while I wait for dinner to be served. The air hostess has even spread a table cloth across my table. I’m trying to make the most of it as I doubt I’ll be traveling again anytime soon let alone ever being able to fly business class again but right now I would have taken a seat in the hold with the luggage if they had let me.
What has amazed me most is that there are not as strict protocols for social distancing and other health and safety measures as I thought there would be. In the gates people still sit shoulder to shoulder. Some wear masks and a few gloves, which we also wore through security and other parts of the airport where we thought might be high risk. Air hostesses are wearing gloves but not all of them and not all the time. Every airline worker had hand sanitiser on their desks but considering they are handling hundreds of passports and boarding passes I was surprised they weren’t wearing gloves. On the flight there was an empty seat next to me so I immediately moved away to give space between myself and the person in the window seat. Joey did the same in the row behind me. Still, I feel hyper aware of everything I am coming into contact with and realising that we can do our best but that ultimately it is pretty impossible to do anything with no risk, except unless we could all wear hazmat suits. Though I hope it doesn’t come to that.
I can only stress again that in our experience we were not able to contact the British embassy even over multiple times and trying on different days. Joey had got through to the London office on Monday to only be told that because we were in Australia he couldn’t help him with any answers on anything and the mans only advice was to call the local British consulate. When I did get through to the British consulate today they could give me no useful information or even provide any hope of repatriation. That being said, what other choice to travellers still in Australia (or anywhere around the world) have but to continue to try.
We have also never received any cancellation email or contact from Emirates airline to update the situation, we initially found out through Sky news and then checked their website where we found no mention of flights being suspended or what to do or what the airline was doing. We had to make judgements completely by ourselves. Later they also claimed that some flights back to the UK would still be going ahead after all but a friend who had a flight booked on Saturday told us her flight was cancelled so whether our original Thursday flight, at that point, would have gone ahead we had no idea. Again calling was pointless as you just couldn’t get through. I’m talking phone would cut out without even ringing, just a message to say unavailable, not even getting stuck on hold for hours.
I know this situation is unprecedented and changing hour by hour but still I cannot explain how frustrating, stressful and scary it is to be so uncertain and in the dark with no information on what is best to do. There seems to be a massive lack of communication and people being sent round in circles because no one knows the answers. It makes me angry at our government for not putting clearer policies, instructions and precautions in place. If there were maybe there would be less panic, maybe people would take this more seriously and maybe even curb the spread of the disease.
These are the thoughts buzzing round in my head over the course of this nine hour flight. I will try to update again from Tokyo.
- Stay safe
- Stay isolated/social distance where you can
- Keep washing hands and sanitising
- Most importantly be kind to others