News

Deni travellers just got home

By Jamie Lowe

What was planned to be a relaxing holiday turned in to a nightmare for Deniliquin couple John and Colleen Henderson.

The pair left for Scotland on March 14, with the intention of enjoying a holiday before attending a wedding in St Andrews on April 4.

As the Coronavirus pandemic continued to grow in intensity, they found themselves scrambling to make arrangements to get home again before the found themselves stuck in limbo.

Scotland was going in to total lockdown, and the Australian Government was placing further limitations of returning travellers every day.

The couple managed to arrange new flights to return home just in the nick of time, despite some flights being cancelled, and arrived at Melbourne Airport at 6.30am on Saturday morning.

Later that night, the Federal Government’s mandatory quarantine — which would see all overseas travellers locked in to hotel rooms in their arrival city for two weeks — were enforced.

The Hendersons are instead self quarantining in the comfort of their own home.

Mr Henderson said while their flight schedule suggested they would get home before the quarantine was enforced, he only felt a sense of relief when the direct flight from Doha Airport in Qatar to

Melbourne had left the tarmac.

‘‘There was a lot of mucking around calling travel agents to get flights booked to get back,’’ he said.

‘‘On March 18 we were frantically trying to organise a return flight and we managed to book one for the following Wednesday.

‘‘That gave us a week to still holiday as much as we could under the restrictions.

‘‘On Sunday (March 22) we looked up our flight online, only to see that it had been cancelled.

‘‘We drove to Edinburgh Airport and went to the help desk and they said the flight was still on but online it still said it had been called off.

‘‘We went back on the Monday (March 23) to double check and they worked out that it was the leg from Scotland to Doha that was cancelled but not our flight from Doha to Melbourne, which is why their system didn’t show the cancellation.

‘‘Luckily we were able to re-book a flight for the Thursday (March 26). We could’ve gotten back earlier but it would’ve cost us $3000, while rescheduling with Qatar Airways only cost us $1000.’’

The drama did not stop there for the Hendersons, with the couple facing yet another challenge on their journey home when they went to check in for their flight.

‘‘When we got up the front of the queue to scan our passports for our flight they said we weren’t on the system,’’ Mr Henderson said.

‘‘They told us not to panic and that there was space on the plane. There was another girl who was on a working holiday in Scotland that faced the same issue as us as well.

‘‘Thankfully we got on the flight and landed in Doha for our nine hour stop over, but when we were talking with the girl we met at Scotland we found out that she was flying into Perth, before getting a connecting flight to Melbourne.

‘‘We wanted to help her out so we managed to get her on the same flight as us, which saw only 14 passengers on this big commercial flight.

‘‘They needed the plane as it was fully booked to come back from Melbourne, but it was so strange to see only 14 passengers in what looked like an empty plane.

‘‘We pretty much had a flight attendant per person.

‘‘It was good to finally land in Melbourne, where we had to sign the quarantine form, and even better to be able to get home.’’

The flights weren’t the only problem for the Hendersons while trying to get back home, with the couple having issues with their accommodation as well.

With their rescheduled flights they had booked accommodation at a country club by the golf course at Edinburgh for four nights, but after two nights they were forced to find somewhere else to stay.

‘‘We had originally only booked two nights there but with our new flight being booked for Thursday we booked the extra two nights,’’ Mr Henderson said.

‘‘It was a beautiful resort so we still felt like we were on holidays until we were told on Tuesday that they were closing due to the Coronavirus lockdown and we needed to find somewhere else to stay that night.

‘‘Luckily we managed to find a three bedroom apartment on Airbnb which had beach views.

‘‘The restrictions in Scotland were quite similar to what we have here in Australia at the moment.

‘‘You’re still allowed to go to the supermarket and there were still some people going about their normal business that saw it as just an inconvenience.

‘‘But being a tourism hub, you could tell that everyone was worried about the economic impact this would have.

‘‘Shop owners were worried and mentioned that they wouldn’t have their usual influx of tourist groups, and they were all scared that they may not recover from what was about to happen.

‘‘When they went into lockdown there was a bit of a change, with the accommodation shutting down, but it was hard to tell how much of a difference there was because the weather wasn’t great either.’’

The Hendersons are now in day four of their mandatory 14 day quarantine, with both John and Colleen straight back into ‘‘normality’’.

‘‘We’re both back working now,’’ Mr Henderson said.

‘‘I’ve got my computer here and Colleen had her computer set up for her when we were on our way back to Australia.

‘‘I’m a property valuer and while I obviously can’t go out and do inspections there is other work I can do.

‘‘Colleen is an accountant, so she is easily able to work from home too, so we’re pretty lucky.

‘‘We’ll pass the time with work, as well as walking around the backyard to get some fresh air.’’