The Greeks trapped in the so-called “lucky country”



Trouble continues for a number of Greek nationals who happened to be in Australia at the time of the coronavirus outbreak and are now unable to return to Greece, mainly because the airlines they had booked with, have stopped flying, SBS Greek reported.

One of them is Vangelis Makroulis, who contacted the Greek Radio and Television Program SBS to tell them that he had a prepaid return ticket, and then seeing that the company, in this case Emirates, stopped flights from Australia, booked with another company, Etihad. However, this flight was then cancelled.

“My story begins with the day I planned to leave Melbourne for ‘Eleftherios Venizelos’ [International Airport in Athens]. My flight was scheduled for March 21 with Emirates and I had booked my ticket on November 20, 2019. Two days before the flight, they cancelled a part of it,” Vangelis said in an interview with SBS Radio’s Greek Program.

“I would have to fly from Dubai to Eleftherios Venizelos a day later, staying in Dubai one day. But I managed to transfer the flight and so I would sit for about three hours in Dubai. Suddenly I received an e-mail that the flight had been cancelled. Later, they sent me a new e-mail for its final cancellation,” Mr. Markoulis noted.

The cancellation of the flight also marked the beginning of Vangelis Markoulis’ effort to find an alternative way for his return to Greece.

“Since then, I have been in contact with the embassy as well as the consulate here in Melbourne so that a solution can be found. I let this ticket run and got a new one with Etihad via Aegean, which manages these flights in Greece. This flight has been cancelled three times and I am still waiting here,” said Markoulis.

“I contacted the Embassy and the Consulate to get some advice. People responded to me and the consul general here in Melbourne recommended a Qatar flight which continues to operate to Athens. I actually found a flight, but it didn’t have economy seats available, but only Business and ticket price was 7,000 euros,” he said.

Mr. Markoulis, continuing the effort to put an end to his problems, denounces the Greek authorities for indifference.

“I am complaining to the Greek state because we see that many countries are making repatriation flights and yet we are completely on the outside. Some flights were operated from Balkan countries, as well as a flight from London. Us nothing. There is not the slightest thing. In other words, a hope that we can do something,” he said.

“The number of” trapped “Greeks is small”

The SBS Program contacted the Consul General of Greece in Melbourne, Dimitrios Michalopoulos, about questions he receives from Greek citizens who are trapped in Australia amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“There are statements by the Greek government spokesman about the inability of Greek companies to repatriate at the moment. Exceptions have been made in very specific cases and will be made for very urgent cases,” said Michalopoulos, giving his own advice to those who are suffering.

“What we recommend to Greek citizens living here in Australia who want to return home is to continue their efforts through existing airlines operating flights from Australia to the Gulf countries and from there, continue to Athens. Companies are now more than one, so prices are somewhat more competitive and more affordable. We call on our compatriots to choose these companies if there is a reason to return home,” Michalopoulos said.

At the same time, the Consul General of Greece in Melbourne mentioned the number of Greek citizens trapped in Australia.

“These flights are expensive and the plane that will come here will have to be large. As you understand, there should be a similar possibility on our part here to pay for all the positions of this aircraft, so that the flight can take place. This has not been possible so far, because the number of Greeks trapped, at least here in the state of Victoria, was not very large. Essentially, there are now under 50 people, most of whom have booked tickets and are slowly leaving Australia. Therefore, due to this small number, it was not possible to help,” said Michalopoulos.