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  • Writer's pictureAisling Salisbury

My Trip to Australia - Over Before It Started #notlongenough

Wednesday, June 15th 2021

It's a cold and wet day as if it senses the sadness that today brings. My morning starts early as we shoot off to Tullamarine airport for my flight to Sydney. One of the earliest and cheapest flight to Sydney is hilariously a Business Class ticket on Rex's new jet services. Seriously, it was cheaper than a Staff Ticket on Jetstar, go figure?

Similar to my farewell the night before with my parents, hugs on the curbside are the never wanting to let go type. I can't help but feel a sense of déjà vu, the only difference between this and July 2020 was the Rex Terminal instead of Qantas. Nevertheless, it was the same feeling I had the last time I walked into the terminal.

I only hope that this time I can be true to my word and be back in three months. But the sadder thing is, even if I do get back in September, the bigger question is how long will it be before I can come back again?

The airport is a sad sight, a massive ghost town with flights cancelled galore. All unnecessary Australia.

As touching as the departure is to fly out of Melbourne with only a hope of seeing it again sooner than later, I must say I'm quite impressed with Rex's jet services. The flight is completely full and we arrive in Sydney to a similar situation that I had in Melbourne on Saturday. A bunch of Health Buerocrats, but this time, surrounded by Australian Federal Police checking our papers that we were permitted to be in NSW by registering our arrival. Seriously I thought this was Australia and it was one country.

But the further stupidity of bureaucracy comes when I get to the International check-in counters and they refuse to accept my negative COVID test result for the United States because it was sent to me via Text Message. Despite it's credibly being from a pathologist a text message is not good enough. I have to rush to the airport's COVID testing centre and shell out $150 for a test. Even these Australian's don't understand that I could, and would be accepted with a $50 rapid antigen test, I don't want to argue, I just want to get on that flight to the US. My prompt requirement to get on this flight was nothing to do with getting back for work. It's more that if I don't get on it I could've spent another 24hrs in Melbourne.

Whilst I wait for the test result they refuse to check me in for the flight despite it closing in 20mins. I say just let me through to the gate and have my bag on standby. If boarding closes and I can't produce a suitable test result I don't get on the flight. Simple you would think, but . . .

I head back to the testing centre and get my test results then run to the check-in counters with three minutes to spare. I am safe, right? Nope! Despite producing my "exemption to an exemption" they still need to contact Australian Border Force that I am cleared to leave the country.

This process takes another ten minutes and the only reason I get on the flight is they kept it open for me as it was the Australian Border Force that slows me down. Seriously Australia you are a complete joke. The sad thing is, it isn't funny anymore.

Although I am last to board, it's done so 35mins before the flight is even permitted to drop its break and close the door. That's what happens when you only have 30 people on a 787. I think the United Flight Attendant, Donna, notices my frustrations, stress and sadness at leaving Australia she seems to take pity on me whilst we await the time they can actually depart. Despite being in Premium Economy she dots on me everything from Business Class she can find. She reminds me of the flight attendant I had on my first British Airways flight in 1997, the only thing missing this time was the nearly two kilos of Werther's Original.

However, nothing can make up for the fact that I am leaving Australia again with no guarantees I will ever be able to return, The final insult was being tied up in the Australian bureaucracy on departure as if it was a final middle finger. As I depart I can't help but think, I never want to come back. That's such a shameful feeling that is shared by a lot of Aussies overseas right now. Indeed, if I didn't still have family there then this probably would've been a one-way ticket. The Australia I left in 2019 is now a strange land to me and I don't think it's ever going to recover.

Remember a friend did say to me "when you can come home you will see we are mostly back to normal" well, sorry but you aren't even close. You're getting worse.

With that final thought, my Aussie trip is over and done with.

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