More than 170 Australians stranded overseas because of COVID-19 are now on their way home.
Among those on board were some of the most vulnerable Australians, including sick, elderly, young children and new mothers.
A Qantas Dreamliner departed London last night, the first of eight repatriation flights the airline will undertake over the next six weeks.
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Those boarding the plane expressed their relief.
“I’m so excited. I’ve been waiting three months of cancelled flights and stuff,” Dean Murtagh told the ABC.
New mum Jessica Duffy gave birth in the UK and is thrilled to be able to finally come home.
“It has been quite difficult. I’ve had a couple of flights cancelled already,” she told the ABC.
“I got a call last Friday for the flight today and it just all happened so fast. We’ve had to quickly get everything ready and together but it’s been really good that thankfully we’ve been able to get home now.”
The 174 passengers will be taken to Darwin to quarantine for 14 days at the Howard Springs facility.
The flight is being underwritten by the Federal Government but passengers have been slugged $2150 each for an economy seat.
It’s estimated there are currently 32,000 Australians stuck overseas who are trying to get home.
Their efforts have been hampered by the cap on international arrivals in Australia, cancelled flights, and the huge costs charged by some commercial airlines.
The special Qantas flights are expected to allow an extra 1350 Australians to come home.
The airline will operate two more London flights as well as flights from New Delhi and Johannesburg with the possibility of other cities being added.