Australian permanent residents and citizens back home from India over the weekend, are brimming with gratitude for the detailed care and attention meted out to them. A mum in quarantine, who missed her children on Mother's Day, also got a gift from the Victorian government.
Much to the relief of Australians stranded in India, jumping into the rescue flight fray from India last week, was Australia’s national carrier, Qantas. Foreign airlines like Lion Air and Qatar Airways have brought home around 3000 Australians stranded in India over the past month.
Two Melbourne-based friends, who wanted to travel back from India together, had to part ways because the Melbourne flight sold out in two minutes flat. One of them had to fly to Sydney because that was the only ticket available on the May 8 flight from New Delhi.
- Australia deployed Qantas to fly direct to and from India to rescue its stranded people
- Over 500 have returned home this weekend by 3 flights, fare nearly $2400
- Passengers praise government's arrangements for their comfort and safety
Kuldeep Dhillon and Vikas Kalra tell SBS Punjabi that Australia’s rescue operation, was “a great experience” for them despite them being on different flights and quarantined in different cities.
“My wife Sunita and I are highly impressed with the way the Australian government is looking after us. I have no hesitation in saying that no other country in the world is taking such good care of its people as is ours,” said a grateful Mr Dhillon, who was returning from Punjab.
Carrying over 500 passengers, Qantas operated three direct flights on May 7 and 8 bound for Melbourne and Sydney from New Delhi.
Quarantined at the plush Crown Metropole hotel in Melbourne, Mr and Mrs Dhillon say their “good experience” with Australia’s rescue operation began in India with the caring treatment offered to them by the Australian High Commission.
“Barry O’Farrell, Australia’s High Commissioner-Designate to India was present at Indira Gandhi International Airport to look after each one of us. His team members checked with everyone to see if they were fine and needed help. The Qantas staff even exonerated excess baggage for a change,” laughs Mr Dhillon.
He says the High Commission also provided a personal safety kit containing 10 face masks, a bottle of sanitiser and garbage bags to every passenger.
“Every morning, a nurse calls at 9 am to ask if we are feeling well and have any special needs like dietary requirements or medication. I was only left with two days’ dosage of my diabetes medicine. When I asked the nurse for permission to let my children drop it at the hotel from home, to my surprise, 45-days of medication was delivered to me within four hours by the nurse,” says Mr Dhillon.
He adds that they asked for regular-sized toiletries because they felt small tubes provided in the hotel were insufficient for their personal care needs.
“Along came a bell boy with a bag of top-quality shampoo, shaving cream, mouthwash. My wife was overjoyed when she saw an Olay face cream in that stash,” he gushes.
His wife, Sunita, a mother of three, says she was missing Mother’s Day celebrations on May 10, a day after returning to Australia.
“I was given a pleasant surprise by the Victoria government when I received a Mother’s Day gift and card. They had sent a fine-quality skincare gift pack to all mothers in the hotel,” said Mrs Dhillon.
Mr Dhillon’s friend, Vikas Kalra, had been spending time with his family in Haryana, adjoining Punjab, since the past three months.
Now whiling away the 14-day quarantine period at Sydney’s upscale Sofitel Hotel, he is waiting to go home to Melbourne.
“My wife and I wanted to accompany the Dhillon couple to Melbourne. But little wonder, the Melbourne flight was sold out in 2 minutes flat after tickets became available,” says Mr Kalra, highlighting the number of Australians stranded in India, desperate to return home.
“I kept trying but got an error message repeatedly, perhaps, there was too much traffic on the website. Then Mr Dhillon advised me to take the Sydney flight. I’m glad I could at least get back to Australia,” says he, as he prepares to fly out to Melbourne at the end of his two-week quarantine.
“Sofitel is one’s of the best hotels there can be. We’ve been told that if we don’t get a flight to our home city after 14 days, the government will accommodate us at the hotel for two more days at their expense, but we’ll have to pay for all other needs, but our ticket is already booked,” he says adding that “the government is taking very good care of everyone”.
Thanking to the Australian government for their efforts towards ensuring the safety and comfort of all passengers brought back home from India, Mr Dhillon and Mr Kalra, however, wish to bring to their attention the “lack of social distancing for passengers inside the aircraft while the seats opposite crew members were left vacant”.
“Qantas is amongst the world’s best airlines. It’s a shame they leave passengers to their fate,” Mr Dhillon mentions, adding that his “overall experience” is “memorable”.
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