An Australian mum is planning to fly her “lockdown baby” and dozens of others home from the UK to see their loved ones for Christmas.
Carly McCrossin launched her ambitious “Fly the Babies Home” campaign in August after three tough months of watching her baby grow during the COVID-19 pandemic without being surrounded by her family in Australia or her husband’s in New Zealand.
Their daughter, Ailish, was born in April.
In an emotional video posted to Facebook, Ms McCrossin said it had been “really, really tough” and “actually suffocating”.
“The heartbreak of not being able to introduce your newborn baby to your families is something unimaginable that I still, even after a few months, I can’t quite seem to quite get my head around,” she said.
“And every day I’m packing up her clothes that she won’t fit into anymore, knowing that they’ll never see her that small.
“Every day a little piece of my heart just kind of breaks off because you’re being robbed of so many just incredible memories of her that you want to share with your family and you can’t.”
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The idea for a charter flight came to her when she was “sitting around, getting sadder and sadder” about the situation.
She said the couple didn’t feel safe getting on a plane, even if they could.
There are believed to be about 18,000 Australians stuck in various places around the world struggling to come home due to the COVID-19 pandemic and airlines are routinely bumping off economy and premium economy passengers in favour of higher-paying ones to remain profitable.
“I just thought, I have to do something. What’s going to make me feel safe? How can I get my baby home for Christmas?” Ms McCrossin said.
“I feel that if I can go on a flight where everybody, as much as possible, could be COVID-free then that’s what I want to try and do.
“So I’m making this video to reach out to any people in London that have a lockdown baby and have family in Australia or New Zealand that would be willing to self-shield and isolate for two to three weeks prior to boarding a flight.
“The flight would be with everybody that has pre-registered, that has basically gone online and registered for this campaign that I’m setting up.
“I’m reaching out to commercial airlines to say ‘if you have any jets, or I don’t know how it works, if you’ve got any planes that you’d be willing to dedicate like an airline number to us or a flight to us so we could get home for Christmas, I would be just so appreciative.
“And I think then the next stage is obviously reaching out to the Government to say ‘if we have self-shielded before we’ve got on the flights in London, can we then have safe passage into Australia and New Zealand where we don’t have to sit in a hotel room and shield ourselves for two weeks? Would you approve for us to be shielded in our family homes?’”
On her registration page, she states that it is not a free flight and passengers will be required to pay “the normal UK to AU/NZ airfare depending on the class of travel chosen or offered”.
“We may need to pro-rata the ticket price depending on how we socially distance the passengers across the range of classes,” she wrote.
“Depending on the number of passengers and destination we may not be able to fly into your preferred destination choice … but we will definitely get you as far as we can!”
Potential passengers are asked for their intended length of stay and to take into account any quarantine requirements before a return flight.
Ms McCrossin said some people had laughed in her face while others thought it was a “brilliant idea”.
“Hopefully the airlines will hear and the New Zealand and the Australian Governments will hear and hopefully we can have safe passage home.”
The UK-based mum published the video on August 5.
By August 11, she’d received 67 registrations, and the following week the total had risen to 162, she said in updates on the Fly The Babies Home Instagram account.
On August 22, Ms McCrossin wrote on Facebook that she was “looking forward to the reply emails next week of flight options”.
She told news.com.au registrations are still pouring in and she is reaching out to more companies about hiring a plane.
“I’m just so thankful to family, friends, new friends that have all shared so our story can be heard…unfortunately along with so many others,” she said.
She told the ABC this week the registrations for the charter flight to Australia included “70 babies”.
“It’s going to be a very noisy flight,” she said.
Registered passenger, London-based Australian mother Katy Boustead, told the national broadcaster she hopes the model is “something that governments are willing to look at”.
Ms McCrossin told news.com.au on Wednesday she had received 33 extra registrations, taking it to “around 90 babies … as some have registered that are grandparents from the UK wanting to get to Australia”.
There have been caps on international passenger arrivals at major Australian airports since July and none are flying into Victoria given Melbourne’s hotel quarantine program has been suspended until October and is under inquiry.
The National Cabinet last month agreed existing caps would remain.
Each week, a total of 525 people are allowed into Perth and 500 each in Brisbane and Adelaide, while Sydney is limited to 350 arrivals per day.
“National Cabinet agreed that information relating to quarantine capacity and demand would continue to be exchanged and support flexibility within the caps to as much as possible to minimise disruptions to returning Australian citizens and permanent residents,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.
He said the arrangements will “continue to be reviewed”.
In regards to charter flights, the Australian Border Force states: “It is necessary for flight operators of all non-scheduled international flights to submit an international flight request at least seven days before the proposed flight.”
“Regular public transport flights are exempt from this requirement.
“Requests are considered by the ABF and other stakeholders such as Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications; and State and Territory authorities. They are used to evaluate capacity and other requirements.”