Stranded Aussies turned down flights home
AUSSIES stranded overseas have turned down flights to come home, while one specially organised flight to get people back took 1800 phone calls and emails just to fill the 175 seats.
There are 36,000 Australians currently registered with the government wanting to come home.
But a Senate inquiry heard testimony that there have been some people turn down seats on flights because when they are reached they "do not wish to return to Australia at this time".
Reasons range from personal, not enough notice, work, health and even having contracted COVID rendering them unable to travel.
It can also be revealed that more special repatriation flights will be organised to get more vulnerable Australians home before Christmas.
About 29,000 Aussies are expected to make it back on those and separate commercial flights before December 25, though many will spend the festive season in quarantine.
This includes 1,300 per week arriving in Brisbane between now and Christmas, according to the Department of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development.
There were 26,000 Australians registered with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade as wanting to come home as of September 18 when Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he wanted as many of them home by Christmas as possible.
Since then 39,000 Australians have returned home, include 14,000 who were registered with DFAT.
But the number of Aussies clamouring to get back has continued to rise, with more than 36,000 now registered as wanting to come back.
DFAT deputy secretary Tony Sheehan said there had been some, but not a majority, of people who rejected an offered flight.
"Not every Australian we offered a flight to is able to accept the offer. Some of those who registered with us do not wish to return to Australia at this time," he told a Senate committee on Thursday.
"In some cases they don't take the offer for a flight. There can be good reasons for that."
He said one repatriation flight from the UK required 1800 emails and calls to fill.
Surge capacity at hotel quarantine was increasing by 2400 spaces, including due to state borders opening up which has freed up rooms.
Mr Morrison said progress had been made in getting Australians home, within hotel quarantine constraints.
"The ability to get people home to Australia depends on the available quarantine capacity here in Australia," he said.
Opposition leader Anthony Albanese again called for the RAAF VIP fleet to be used.
"We know that it can be used for other purposes, but apparently can't be used to bring Australian citizens home. This is simply not good enough," he said.
The top five countries Australians and permanent residents are returning from are India, the UK, Philippines, Thailand and South Africa.
Originally published as Stranded Aussies turned down flights home