When Emirates Flight EK 420 touched down in Perth last Thursday, Rinnie Nelson’s eyes filled with tears.
It was an emotional end to a “phenomenal” journey home from Saudi Arabia in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, which, under normal circumstances, would have taken 15 hours and cost a family of six approximately $5,500.
But, due to a host of coronavirus travel restrictions, the trip took two weeks – including four days trapped inside Germany’s Frankfurt airport – and cost $50,000 in life savings.
Nelson says that, although she feels an “overwhelming sense of joy and relief” having finally made it home, there are no words to describe the depth of mental, emotional, physical, and financial exhaustion the journey has inflicted on her family.
“We had already endured so much”
Nelson and her husband, Matthew, are both from Western Australia but have lived in the Middle East for the past 10 years. When the coronavirus pandemic triggered global lockdowns and travel restrictions in March, the Nelsons had a secure income, housing and access to health care – so they followed the advice of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) to stay in place.
However, things took an unexpected turn in June when Matthew lost his job.
“Initially, there was absolutely no reason whatsoever to return to Australia,” Nelson said.
“But with no work, no more private health care, the children unable to continue schooling and residency visas due to expire in two months’ time, we had no choice but to pack up everything and begin the difficult and challenging task of relocating a family of six to the other side of the world ― in the middle of a global pandemic.”
On August 28 the Nelsons flew from Saudi Arabia to Frankfurt, where the plan was to spend the night before catching a flight home to Perth. But the next day, an hour before boarding, the family was informed that due to a Singapore transit policy oversight made by their travel...