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Mum’s ‘heartbreak’ 17,000km from home

A young mum trapped in the United Kingdom with her one-year-old daughter says she’s “distressed” and “heartbroken” she cannot return home to Australia to be with her husband.Ella Kilgour and her baby daughter Mabel travelled to the UK in February for what was supposed to be a six-week trip to visit family. Ms Kilgour took…

A young mum trapped in the United Kingdom with her one-year-old daughter says she’s “distressed” and “heartbroken” she cannot return home to Australia to be with her husband.

Ella Kilgour and her baby daughter Mabel travelled to the UK in February for what was supposed to be a six-week trip to visit family. Ms Kilgour took the trip while on maternity leave, while her husband Clayton stayed in Canberra.

But within a month of arriving in Hampshire to see her family, the coronavirus pandemic swept the world and put the UK into a total lockdown. Ms Kilgour’s plan to return home on March 22 was dashed, and she has since been left in limbo desperately trying to return home to her husband.

“It’s been really intense and distressing,” Ms Kilgour said in an interview with

“Clayton has not seen Mabel for seven months and his heart is really breaking. This is time that he will never be able to get back. She was just a tiny baby when we left and now she is a stout 13 months, stomping happily about and shouting about her opinions. She is a little girl.”

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Ms Kilgour said her original flight in March was cancelled and, like millions of others across the UK, she and Mabel were forced into a complete lockdown.

Not wanting to risk the health of her young daughter on board a plane during the unknown initial weeks of the pandemic, both Ms Kilgour and her husband made the decision not to rebook a flight straight away.

“The international travel advice was to not travel unless strictly necessary and I was concerned about travelling with Mabel during the pandemic,” she said.

“She was only seven months at the time … I felt too overwhelmed to undertake the journey under these circumstances.

“It has become clear over time that infants do not seem to be affected aggressively by COVID, but this was not known at the time which is why my partner and I decided that the safest thing was to stay put.”

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Ms Kilgour, like thousands of other Australians, has been trying to return home as lockdown restrictions eased in the UK in June.

But simply booking a seat, getting on a plane and returning home has been a battle that many cannot afford, with seats costing upwards of $15,000 one way.

Thousands of Australians stuck overseas have been trying to get home over the past few months, but have been hindered by exorbitant airfares and the capped flights into Australian airports.

Ms Kilgour said she was forced to turn to GoFundMe and selling artwork online to raise money for a business class plane ticket home. According to the crowd-funding platform, around 125 fundraising pages have been launched since March on behalf of Australian’s trying to get home.

“As the international travel restrictions came into effect in early March, GoFundMe experienced a surge in Australians and expats turning to crowd-funding to cover the unexpected costs associated with navigating their return home,” Nicola Britton, regional manager at GoFundMe Australia, told

“Since March, ongoing restrictions have led to spikes in airfares and increased competition for seats, leaving struggling Australians unable to fund their return. At first, Australian travellers caught off-guard by the border closures turned to crowd-funding to secure emergency flights home. Five months later and many are citing having to pay for business class seats and cover quarantine costs as an impossible financial burden. Their only option is to ask family to help bridge the funding gap, launching GoFundMe pages to help.”

Currently, airports around the country have caps in place for states and territories to manage quarantine levels, which puts pressure on airlines working to get Australians home. The number of permitted arrivals into Australia sits around 4000 per week.

“No one wished for this pandemic and it is certainly not the Government’s fault that we ended up in the UK when it hit its peak,” Ms Kilgour said.

“But I do think they must have realised that a natural consequence of limiting those incoming passenger numbers would mean that it would no longer be commercially viable for the airlines to fly citizens home.”

Ms Kilgour said one of the biggest “psychological barriers” facing her return is being in hotel quarantine alone with her baby, but the financial cost of simply getting to Australia is the hardest hurdle of all.

“Economy passengers are very unlikely to fly with the current government restrictions on incoming passengers,” she explained, saying that airlines are prioritising business class airfares first.

“Their priority is as follows: business class, those with acute medical conditions or end of life circumstance, premium economy, economy. You don’t know if you’ll be on that plane until the day you fly, but the chances are very slim unless you are business class as there will be only 30 people on the plane flying in to Sydney.

“The only way to have any security of getting home is to purchase a business class ticket.”

Ms Kigour’s GoFundMe has currently raised almost $3500 in addition to the $7000 raised by selling artwork on her Instagram page, which initially was enough for a ticket.

“It really lifted my spirits to do something proactive after so many months of being stuck in a passive, waiting, powerless state,” she said.

“People sent a lot of beautiful messages and it has helped carry me through the last few weeks. It’s heartbreaking because we actually reached our goal and I went online to buy our ticket, but just a week later Qatar were selling business class fares one way for £13,000 (about $A25,000). I was devastated.”

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