‘It was like being on a film set’ - hospital worker’s fear after rush to travel home from Australia

Norwich Airport. Pic: Archant

Norwich Airport. Pic: Archant - Credit: Archant

A hospital worker has spoken of her fear and panic after part of her flight home from Australia was cancelled due to coronavirus.

The 58-year-old woman from Strumpshaw, who wanted to remain anonymous, was due to return to Norwich Airport from Melbourne in Australia via Dubai and Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam on Tuesday.

After her final connection home was cancelled because of the pandemic, her husband and travel agent, Oyster Travel in Old Catton, had to arrange another flight on Wednesday at a cost of £400.

The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital switchboard operator, who had been visiting her two sons in New Zealand and Australia since February 6, said: “I panicked because I had never been in that situation before.”

She was travelling on her own and initially thought Emirates airline was aware of the cancelled Norwich connection after she became aware of it at the weekend before her flight home on Monday.

But when she got to the flight desk in Melbourne they were unaware of it so she had to rely on her husband and Oyster Travel to book her on another flight.

The 58-year-old said: “I think I got on one of the last planes out of Australia. I was glad to get on the plane.

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“The airports were full because everyone was trying to get home. It was very scary because people were in masks and white protective boiler suits. It was like being on a film set.”

She added that the majority of food outlets and shops at the airports were also closed and many of the flights on the departure boards showed cancelled flights, which made her even more nervous.

The hospital worker, who is healthy and well after her ordeal, said she had to sit close to people for several hours on the Melbourne to Dubai and Dubai to Schiphol flights but everyone was told to stay at least two metres apart in airport buildings.

She was one of only 10 people on the Schiphol to Norwich flight and praised the KLM staff. The mother, who had just come back from seeing her first grandchild in Australia, added she was not allowed out of her hotel near Schipol airport.

She said she was grateful to her husband and Oyster Travel staff. “My husband cried when he picked me up from the airport. He was so relieved,” she said.

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