Australians risk missing repatriation flight from Qantas to Buenos Aires – Australian Aviation

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Qantas 787 Dreamliner in flight (Qantas)

Australians trying to return home from South America say they are struggling to find their way to Argentina in time to board the scheduled Qantas repatriation flight from Buenos Aires to Darwin.

The repatriation flight, which will be Qantas’ longest flight, is scheduled to depart on October 5.

However, passengers booked on the flight said Argentina’s strict border controls made access to Buenos Aires from other parts of the continent nearly impossible, despite the Australian government’s promise to help.

“I don’t know why DFAT chose Argentina in the first place,” Adelaide resident John Herriot told ABC.

“It’s quite ironic that the flight back to Australia was easy enough to sort out, but now a two hour flight from Chile to Argentina is turning into a nightmare. “

According to Herriot, the passengers were told they had to go in person to an Argentine embassy in order to get the correct travel permit to travel to Argentina despite its closed borders, but this proved difficult for any. person not currently residing in a large city.

“We are in the hands of these people… if you promised a flight to 200 people, you must have thought of everything before you tell them to go to Argentina. “

The Australian Embassy in Buenos Aires reportedly contacted passengers aboard the DFAT flight last week to say it would help them obtain the proper travel permits.

However, many passengers on the flight still do not have the required permits to travel to Argentina, just days before the repatriation flight.

Additionally, some passengers reported that Argentina’s strict border policies led them to have their flights canceled.

A couple told the ABC they spent 10 hours attempting to contact different embassies to secure a way to travel from Mexico to Buenos Aires before the repatriation flight.

“We’ve now spent $ 1,500 on flights that are likely going to be canceled, which means we’re going to miss the DFAT flight,” they said.

The couple were informed by the Australian Embassy in Mexico City that “due to limited flight options and stiff competition for flights to Argentina, we encourage you to book all available transportation options from your home. current location in Buenos Aires that have a flexible cancellation process.

A spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAT) said the government was doing everything possible to help Australians stranded abroad return home.

“The Australian government continues to work hard to help Australians return, including helping them access scheduled commercial flights within passenger cap limits and implementing a program of facilitated commercial flights above passenger caps. existing systems to maximize quarantine capacity at the Howard Springs facility, ”they said. .

Last week, Australian Aviation announced that Qantas was preparing for one of its longest flights ever, connecting South America and Australia – via the South Pole.

The Flying Kangaroo will begin the nearly 6-hour trip on October 5, when it makes the repatriation flight from Buenos Aires to Darwin.

At nearly 14,700 kilometers, it will be one of the longest flights ever made by Qantas’ 787 Dreamliner, and notably, it will transit over Antarctica on the way back.

It is quite rare for airlines to fly over Antarctica, as this was largely banned until 2011 due to the continent’s remoteness of any emergency landing points.

However, it is not uncommon for carriers to fly over the South Pole, with some of Qantas’ pre-COVID routes to South America taking this shortcut. And Qantas is no stranger to long-haul nonstop flights, especially on its Dreamliners.

The airline’s longest trade route (Perth – London) exceeds its Buenos Aires – Darwin repatriation by just 185 kilometers.

With a total distance of 14,498 kilometers, the flight time is 17 hours and 20 minutes.

Qantas has previously said its non-stop flights between Australia and London will likely be “even more in demand” after the COVID pandemic, as passengers try to avoid congested airports and long layovers.

Earlier this week, the airline confirmed it would change its flagship London-Perth route to go through Darwin instead, due to Western Australia’s “conservative border policies”.

The move was made despite the fact that Qantas CEO Alan Joyce previously suggested that the airline’s Perth-London 787 Dreamliner service was the “best route on our network”.

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