Technology

Thousands of stranded Aussies map their stories on ‘Remove the Cap’ website

Christian Fleetwood

Christian Fleetwood

The stories from travellers and families pleading with the federal government to return to Australia during the coronavirus pandemic are being documented on a new website that shows just how widespread the situation is.

According to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), at least 23,000 Australians have registered with the Commonwealth saying they want to come home.

The Board of Airline Representatives of Australia estimates the real figure is closer to 100,000.

Up to now, the pleas of travellers stranded outside the country have appeared merely as numbers.

But a new website founded by an Australian citizen trapped overseas visually conveys the difficulties and delays Aussies are facing in their attempts to return home.

RemoveTheCap.com was established by Pieter den Heten, a Dutch-Australian stuck couch surfing in Amsterdam without a job, who founded it to show how widespread the issue is in one interactive map.

After launching just two weeks ago, at least 2,144 pins have been added by Australians stranded in countries across the world, alongside their stories, with the number growing daily.

One of these is Barbara, who arrived in Brazil on 1 April to stay with her family because her mother had passed away.

The trip was meant to be for just two months, the time she needed to organise her affairs in Brazil.

Another is Sandi, who arrived in the United Kingdom on 6 March for a conference to present her PhD research. Sandi’s partner went to on to Thailand at the time, and the pair were to meet up in Malaysia late in March.

She is now stuck in London couch surfing and says she is at the stage “where I am waking up every day in tears and crying myself to sleep”.

“I’ve also lost a lot of weight from the stress,” Sandi writes, adding: “All hope of us going back to Australia is gone and I am surviving on the hope that Thailand or Malaysia will allow me entry at some stage this year.”

Following last Friday’s National Cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the states and territories would commit to increasing the current cap on international arrivals, “where possible”, which sits at 4,000 per week.

That announcement followed the establishment of a hardship fund by DFAT to provide emergency hardship loans for Australians left outside the country due to the cap of up to $2,000 for an individual, $3,000 for a family of two, $4,000 for a family of three, and $5,000 for a family of four.

It also came amid the troubling news that airlines had been forced to prioritise customers who pay more for tickets to remain profitable, with planes carrying as few as four passengers.

Heten moved to Germany in September 2019 and was hoping to return to Australia to be with his partner on 1 November, this year, on a Qatar Airways flight.

However, the UX designer revealed in a statement on RemoveTheCap.com that his flight had been changed at the last minute.

“On Sunday 6 September, Qatar [Airways] notified me of a last-minute change to my return flight to Sydney scheduled for early November,” he writes.

“An airline agent informed me I would now leave within 24 hours. Unfortunately, at this short notice, I would be unable to board the flight on time.

“I am still unsure why I was booked at the last minute on a return flight. The cap was – and is – still in place. I will continue to seek a reasonable solution and timeframe for my return flight home. I continue to wholeheartedly desire to be back in Sydney with my partner.

“Importantly, as the founder of Remove the Cap, I want to avoid any (perceived) privileged treatment in organising my return over more pressing cases. My situation is a long-shot from the most pressing cases of Australians in hardship needing to return home.

“With Remove the Cap, I will continue to seek structural change in the Australian travel cap that prevents many citizens from returning home to Australia in a reasonable timeframe.”

RemoveTheCap.com has partnered with another initiative, PassengerCaps.info, which provides information on what the caps mean and how Australians can get help, with the aim being to demonstrate the severity of the issue to Australians back home and gain public support.

SEE WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING

Leave a Reply

Tourism

Northern Beaches COVID-19 outbreak led to $7 billion loss for tourism industry: TTF

Avalon residents have reportedly gone back into quarantine to escape the blame for this huge loss to the tourism industry.

Share

CommentComments

Travel Agents

Federal government urged to introduce HECS-style loan scheme for small businesses

Could this turn out to be another much-needed funding opportunity for travel agents? Let’s bloody hope so.

Share

CommentComments

Aviation

Air New Zealand updates international flight schedule to end of June

Keen to know the Kiwi carrier’s international movements over the next few months? All is revealed here.

Share

CommentComments

Destinations

WATCH: “Naughty” tourists forced to do push-ups for not wearing masks in Bali

Travel Weekly staff would do anything to avoid doing push-ups. Hell, we’ll wear six masks if we have to.

Share

CommentComments

Technology

Airbnb appoints new regional boss

APAC hoteliers are looking over their shoulder after the home-sharing giant named its new bossman for the region.

Share

CommentComments

Tourism

WTTC releases mental health guidelines for travel and tourism sectors

At a time when mental health could not be more important, the world’s leading tourism organisation has released some new guidelines to help businesses of all sizes in the industry support their employees.

Share

CommentComments

Cruise

Silversea announces huge commission bonus, as Silver Dawn hits the water

Would you like to get a fat bonus on top of your next cruise commission? Get on board this latest offer from Silversea.

Share

CommentComments

Destinations

APAC countries dominate the latest passport rankings

They might seem fairly useless right now, but that hasn’t stopped Henley & Partners from churning out its latest passport index.

Share

CommentComments

Wholesalers

GET IN QUICK: Less than two weeks left for Bunnik Tours’ massive 2022 sale

2022 trips at 2020 prices? This news will have your clients yelling “you bloody beauty!” or something to that effect, at least.

Share

CommentComments

Hotels

IHG and City Tattersalls Club team up to open Hotel Indigo Sydney Centre

CTC members are cheering about this new deal, as it means they can now just wander upstairs and pass out at after enjoying a few too many whiskeys at the Silks Bar.

Share

CommentComments

Destinations

Italy achieves one million COVID-19 vaccinations in just 19 days

Travel Weekly’s editor could be heard muttering Italian superlatives like “eccezionale”, “sorprendente” and “bolognese” this morning as he typed this story out.

Share

CommentComments

Travel Agents

Health boss’ international travel prediction highlights need for “renamed and repurposed” JobKeeper: AFTA

Like the way that Pokémon character Jigglypuff turns into Wigglytuff, AFTA is seeking an evolution of JobKeeper.

Share

CommentComments