It was supposed to be the trip of their young lives - eight students from Butler College in Western Australia on a marine studies excursion to the Cocos Islands.
Best friends Monique and Lili were excited about their first big trip without parents, but five days and four cancelled flights later, their excitement turned to tears.
The 16-year-olds were supposed to fly home with Virgin last Tuesday but a lack of airline staff, bad weather and unexplained reasons saw those plans scrapped.
Their parents, almost 3000kms away in Perth, said they felt helpless listening to their kids muffled cries through a distorted phone line.
“Your stomach just drops when you hear your child crying, you just want to be there for them,” Monique’s mother, Natalie Shannon, told 7 News.
“When you're a father and you just want to get your little girl and you can't,” Darryl Shannon added.
Ms McFarlane said getting answers from Virgin Airlines has been just as difficult.
“We haven't had any communications from them really,” she said.
It cost $3500 to send their kids on the excursion and now with the extended stay, costs are mounting. A loaf of bread on the island costs $15, a lettuce $12, and a single chocolate bar costing seven dollars..
The parents say the $50 compensation offered for each student per day is not enough.
“We just want our children home,” Mrs McFarlane said.
That wish is now close to becoming a reality after the students were flown to Christmas Island. They are now expected to return to Perth around 8:30pm Monday.
A Virgin spokesperson said on Sunday the airline had problems with crew sickness and bad weather, and was hoping to get the students home tomorrow.
Virgin Australia confirmed the check-in issue had been resolved early on Monday morning but warned passengers could still face some delays during the afternoon.