Irish in Australia spending thousands on flights that are cancelled

‘We are stranded in a hostel having both recently lost our jobs’

Passengers check in for a flight at Melbourne Airport in Melbourne, Australia, on Monday. Photograph: Bloomberg

Passengers check in for a flight at Melbourne Airport in Melbourne, Australia, on Monday. Photograph: Bloomberg

 

An Irish couple stranded in a hostel in Australia say they have spent nearly €5,000 on flights homes only to have them cancelled.

Colm Cahill (25) and his girlfriend are in a hostel in Melbourne and say they are not the only Irish in the same predicament.

They have been working and travelling in the country since October.

On St Patrick’s Day they realised it was time to make a move when friends messaged from all over the world to say their cities were in lockdown.

“All the messages were lockdown, lockdown and I walked through Melbourne and people were partying like there was no tomorrow and pubs were full,” Mr Cahill said. “We said it was time to go home.”

The first airline they booked €800 each. Within hours the airline cancelled the flight and said they would instead provide a travel voucher “when it was feasible”.

Mr Cahill, from Birr, said a lot of panic set in and some people paid large sums for flights.

With his girlfriend Andrea Treacy, from Rathdowney, Co Laois, he decided to wait a little while and looked at the option of renting a house but decided against it.

They booked another flight at a cost of €1,600 each, “We went to sleep and woke up six hours later to an email to say the flight the cancelled.”

Mr Cahill set up a Facebook group for the Irish trying to get home and within an hour had been contacted by hundreds of people.

Colm and Andrea can afford to stay in the hostel for a while longer but are trying to get assistance from the Irish embassy and their TDs to get them home.

“We are stranded in a hostel having both recently lost our jobs,” they said in a letter to the embassy.

Mr Cahill said the advice is to book a flight as soon as possible but, “airlines are taking money for essentially cancelled flights and then issuing flight vouchers. Most airlines have shut offices and unplugged phones”.

He said some of the Irish people making contact via the Facebook page, “are people commenting that their visas have or are soon to run out, that the last of their money has gone on flights that were cancelled and some that are calling out for a couch before they are stranded on streets”.

He said one woman said she had spent €4,000 on a flight that was cancelled, another had spent €3,000 borrowed from families for a third flight after two others were cancelled and her third booking was then cancelled.

He said it is also stressful for his family in Ireland.

“They are concerned obviously and relieved to hear we booked a flight, so it was hard telling them it got cancelled. It was even harder the second time.”