Travel disruptions continue for Australians as it seems that many expatriates are not sufficiently informed about travel restrictions to Greece, Cyprus and abroad in general, Australian state-owned SBS Ελληνικά reported.
SBS Ελληνικά identified expatriates who tried to travel to Athens. One of the passengers is expatriate Lemonia Shoina, who has Australian and Greek citizenship.
As she told SBS Ελληνικά, at the end of April she had booked a ticket with the Qatar airline to travel from Melbourne to Athens. The flight was scheduled for Sunday, May 10, but she was not allowed to board the plane at the airport.
Shoina had not been informed of travel restrictions abroad by her travel agent. She was told she could leave normally and return in mid-September.
"At the airport I was told that the government would not let me go, unless I had a good reason and would now need to get approval from Canberra," she said.
What do Australian authorities advise?
Shoina referred to a document given to her at the airport. It was published on March 25, 2020 and is from the Australian Border Force. SBS Ελληνικά located the document with a simple internet search and translated it into Greek.
The document states, among other things, that "Australian citizens and permanent residents cannot travel overseas due to COVID-19 restrictions. However, if you want to leave Australia, you may be able to apply online for an exemption to travel if you fall under one of the following categories"
There are several categories, including travel for personal reasons that are urgent but various supporting documents need to be provided.
If, for example, a close family member is being treated in Greece, they need a letter from a doctor or hospital stating why a trip is required, written in English.
This application must be completed as soon as possible and at least 48 hours before the scheduled departure time.
Shoina told SBS Ελληνικά that the Australian authorities would also need to approve her return to Australia. "They will decide when I can return to Australia."
As for the ticket, the airline informed Shoina that she could ask for a refund or book another flight in the future.
"The airline is also to blame."
Shoina's travel agent, Panagiotis Alysandratos, who maintains a travel agency and agreed to speak to SBS Ελληνικά on the subject, said "We're trying to send the document to our customers. I have passengers who have booked tickets for next Sunday [May 17] and I'm afraid they'll be stopped."
Alysandratos said the issue has to do with the Australian state and that the airline, which has flights to Greece, should have reported the restrictions.
"They should have sent us an e-mail and asked for exactly the numbers we needed. All they are asking for now is the passport details," said the expatriate businessman.
SBS Ελληνικά also talked to another travel agent, Marina Theofylaktou, and asked her what she tells customers who want to travel to Greece or Cyprus.
"We tell them they can't travel abroad because the airports are closed, they don't accept passengers. They don't have an airline connection from Doha, Dubai or Abu Dhabi for Greece or Cyprus."