I had originally booked six family members to travel to Seattle USA in mid-April, to await the birth of their surrogate daughter/granddaughter. However, amid the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, all these flights had to be cancelled, and the parents were left distraught and anxious as they were unable to collect their newly expected daughter. Finally, when she was born in the first week of May, Australian Border Force granted special exemption to the parents to leave Australia to collect her. They again entrusted me with their travel needs to bring their baby home.
My clients, Adam and Mireille, chose to travel business class as they wanted the minimum exposure to other people on an aircraft (this was seemingly cheap after they had been quoted $300,000 for a charter flight!). I was able to offer a private airfare, exclusive to TravelManagers Australia, which was several thousand dollars cheaper than the public fare at that time.
After investigating the quarantine regulations required for each stage of the trip, permission was granted by the airline to issue the tickets for the parents, a nine day turnaround was chosen and they were on their way to meet their new baby daughter. At this point, the baby had just received Australian citizenship but was without a passport, as this could only be issued after they had collected her from Seattle.
Fingers crossed as they made their way to Sydney from Perth, an overnight in an airport hotel, and then boarded the flight to the USA the next day. Border control in the USA was also a potential risk as they could be refused entry. I was communicating with them through each step of their journey to make sure they had made it through. It was a huge relief when I received a photo of Mireille, having safely arrived in Seattle and holding her beautiful new baby girl.
Now the challenge really began, getting their baby back to Perth as she presently had no passport and therefore could not leave the country with her parents. This meant they had to fly to San Francisco, to arrange an emergency passport with the Australian Consulate there. A US-born baby travelling with Australians without a passport had the potential to raise major red flags.
I made sure they were as comfortable as possible in San Francisco, as they were semi-isolating themselves in their hotel room, while they waited for a passport and their flights home. Liaising with the hotel I pre-ordered extra water, a bassinet and other essential supplies plus advised them of where they could purchase food as the hotel restaurants and room service were all closed due to the pandemic.
Visits to the Australian Embassy proved fruitful, and the baby was granted an emergency Australian passport. I spent that Sunday morning arranging a one-way international ticket, through to Perth for their new baby. This was a complicated booking process with multiple phone calls and emails with both the international and Australian domestic airline, to coordinate seating arrangements and bassinets ready for the long-haul home.
It was a huge relief to know that they had safely boarded their Sydney-bound flight, and even more so to hear that they had been escorted by the Australian Border Force to their appointed quarantine hotel, where they were required to spend the night before connecting to their final flight back to Perth.
Collected again by border force the next day, they were taken to the airport to board the final leg to Perth, arriving late Saturday night. Sighs of relief, and little sleep for nine nights, the family had made it home and began their mandatory period of quarantine, thankfully in their own house with random police checks.
I checked in with them a few times throughout their self-isolation to see if they needed anything, and they returned the favour when they emerged from quarantine, arranging the delivery of a gourmet food hamper – although completely unnecessary, it was much appreciated!
Vikki Southern is a personal travel manager based in Mount Pleasant, WA.