“I just need to get home” – Sheffield woman stranded in Australia with no support from government or travel companies

A Sheffield woman’s dream trip has turned into a nightmare after the coronavirus pandemic left her stranded abroad with no idea when she'll be able to fly home.

Monday, 30th March 2020, 11:45 am
Updated Monday, 30th March 2020, 2:55 pm

Beth Phillips, 23, from Handsworth, says she has been abandoned in Australia and has not received any help from the British Embassy, the government, or from travel companies, with many airlines charging travellers “ridiculous amounts” only for the flights to be cancelled.

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The law graduate first tried to get home a little over a week ago and says she contacted STA Travel and paid the company over £1,000 while being reassured that they would get her a flight back to the UK.

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Beth Phillips, 23, is currently stranded in Australia and is not receiving any help from the government or travel companies

But, with little warning, most major airlines in Australia began to suspend or cancel flights as the coronavirus outbreak escalated making it even harder for Beth

Beth, who has a ‘flexi flight’ meaning she can change her return flight as often as she likes, said: “Getting a flight back has been the most stressful and distressing thing I have ever been through. My dad is in hospital, I have no money because I lost both jobs at the same time and I have no place to stay.

“I emailed my travel agents, the ‘flexi flight’ team and Cathay Pacific, my airline, before all the flights got cancelled and countries stopped for transit however none of them got back in touch with me.

“I had to scrape £322 extra – having already paid STA travel over £1,000 – to pay for a flight to get home this Sunday however Hong Kong isn’t allowing transits so I won’t be able to get this flight.

Beth, who is currently stuck in Australia, is desperately trying to get home

“I have called STA asking for a refund so I can pay for an alternative flight with Qatar but they said no and to get me on another flight I would have to pay $8,000 (around £4,000) which is money that I don’t have.”

Bored with life in the UK, Beth originally travelled to Australia in September and had been working as a receptionist in a hostel but was let go as the company could not afford to keep her on due to their monetary losses in recent weeks and also lost her second job in a nightclub.

She was also living in a hostel at the time, and says she only realised the severity of Covid-19 outbreak after speaking to a fellow traveller from France who spoke of how her home country was in lockdown.

“I had to loan money to get to Sydney from Adelaide so I could get a flight and now I’m stuck here with no money sofa surfing for the moment,” Beth added. “Every industry is struggling to keep their workers, I am applying for jobs but the employers are going to favour Australian residents which I don’t blame them.

Beth Phillips says she is "beside herself" and is stuck after losing both her jobs

“The only guidance I’ve received is to contact the embassy and they’ve said they can’t do anything and to contact STA. Apart from that, I’m going to go to the airport today and will stay there until I can stay at my friend's place tomorrow.

“I’m feeling angry, stressed and upset. My hair is starting to fall out and I have a rash on my chest and back which is bleeding. I have chronic anxiety and depression as well as bipolar. I’m constantly having severe panic attacks at the fact I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

Despite being in contact with the British Embassy, Beth has been offered no help other than being directed back to STA Travel who want to charge her £4,000 for another flight.

She said: “They won’t get me a refund and they won’t put me on an alternative flight. The customer care team asked me to send them a message on Twitter which I did outlining everything and I’m waiting for a reply back.

“I have signed up for the British High Commission and registered my details, I have emailed the foreign secretary who has failed to get back in touch with me, I am in talks with my local MP and I am hoping that he will be able to help me out some sort of way.

“STA have made it very clear there’s nothing they’ll do to help me, bearing in mind the fact that I have nowhere to stay, no job because businesses are closing and I’m struggling to find money to be able to eat. I’m beside myself, and I just need to get home.”

The Star has contacted STA Travel is awaiting a response.