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‘Disgust’: Pregnant Aussie stranded overseas

An Australian couple were left horrified after a government official told them they had an awful choice to make after being kicked off their flight back home.Sammy Wood, who is 27 weeks pregnant, and her partner Andy had been eagerly awaiting their September 30 flight from London to Sydney, so they could be back home…

An Australian couple were left horrified after a government official told them they had an awful choice to make after being kicked off their flight back home.

Sammy Wood, who is 27 weeks pregnant, and her partner Andy had been eagerly awaiting their September 30 flight from London to Sydney, so they could be back home before their baby arrived.

Strict caps on arrivals to Australia due to COVID-19 mean many flights have been reduced to just 30 passengers but Ms Wood was constantly reassured by Qatar Airlines that she was a medical priority due the 35-week pregnancy cut-off date for flying.

At 10.30pm on Thursday, Ms Wood received an email from the airline informing her that their flight had been cancelled and had been rescheduled for January.

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“My initial thought when I got this email was absolute panic and distress. I immediately started balling my eyes out as I couldn’t believe this was really happening,” Ms Wood told

“I was even more shocked as I had been in contact with Qatar a week before where they had confirmed they had received my medical certificate and that they had notes in my booking that said I couldn’t be bumped due to my pregnancy and needing to fly home before I was too pregnant to fly.

“I honestly felt so betrayed as they told me to stop stressing the last time I had called them and that my partner and I would definitely be on the flight.”

Ms Wood called the Australian High Commission the following day and informed them of her circumstances, explaining her lease expired in two weeks and neither she nor her partner had a job as they believed they were flying home.

The government official then told Ms Wood she needed to prepare to have her baby in London, and said her options were either to couch surf with friends and family or become homeless.

Ms Wood said she was “extremely upset and distressed” that the only option being given to her in order to avoid homelessness was couch surfing, leading to her being passed on to a different representative.

This official informed her she could apply for the $1500 financial hardship loan but Ms Wood said this option required her to “basically be completely broke”.

“I didn’t want to go down this route as I didn’t want to end up in more debt before my child was born or be required to spend every last penny we had before receiving any kind of loan from the government,” she said.

The Australian High Commission in the UK called Ms Wood today and apologised for the way she had been treated on Friday.

“They said they were disgusted in what had been told to me and that I should have had my case escalated due to my pregnancy and my vulnerability,” Ms Wood said.

The High Commission is now working with Qatar Airlines to get her and her partner home before she becomes too pregnant to fly, with the government also offering to pay for their hotel if they had to stay beyond their initial flight date.

It is believed there may have been an administration error that resulted in her partner’s travel exemption not being attached to his passport properly.

Ms Wood said when they initially applied for the travel exemption for her partner they didn’t hear anything for more than six weeks.

It wasn’t until her mum managed to contact the Department of Home Affairs they were reportedly informed a lot of applications from July had been ignored due to a system update.

Ms Wood said the situation has had a huge impact on both her and her partner.

“I’ve had a rather difficult pregnancy as I was suffering through HG (severe morning sickness) through my first and most of my second trimester. I can only imagine that this was exacerbated due to the stress we were under,” she said.

“My partner has been extremely stressed throughout this whole process too as he had fully committed to moving our lives to Australia for us to raise our son as this had always been our plan before we got pregnant and before the pandemic.

“He doesn’t have a job anymore in London due to him completely committing to the move to Australia.”

The couple were relieved when the travel exemption was finally approved and they were assured by Qatar Airlines they were a medical priority.

However, their hopes of returning home were crushed after unexpectedly receiving the flight cancellation email last week.

“We have had many sleepless nights throughout this situation and we also have spent many nights crying and stressing over what would happen if we were unable to get on our flights,” Ms Wood said.

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There are thousands of Australians currently stranded overseas, with Ms Wood saying she was shocked at how the government was handling the situation.

“It makes me feel bad as well that we are getting more attention than some people and I will ultimately feel bad If we do manage to get on a flight, as I know that may mean someone else wasn’t able to,” she said.

Ms Wood said it feels as though no one wants to take responsibility for the situation, with the airlines blaming the government and the government blaming the airlines.

She said she understands it is a difficult time and she, and most other stranded Aussies are completely happy to go into hotel quarantine and “do what we can to protect our fellow Australians”.

“However a lot of the responses I have seen in Facebook groups from the government has been ‘you should have come home back in March’, which is not exactly the advice we were all given,” Ms Wood said.

“A lot of us were told if we had jobs and secure housing to stay put, which is exactly what I did as I had a lease contract to fulfil and couldn’t get out of it.”

Ms Wood said there needs to be a better solution than leaving people stranded overseas homeless and with no money.

“I really hope the government sees this is a complicated situation and not everyone could come home in March and that more needs to be done to protect Australians and that lifting the caps or at least making them less restrictive would be a massive help to many people,” she said.

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