A mother and her three children were left stranded at London’s Heathrow Airport for three days after being bumped off flights home to Australia in favour of business class passengers.

Sheree Richardson of Perth, Australia, posted pictures on social media of her and her three children, who are one, 11 and 14-years-old, sleeping on the airport floor covered in coats.

“Homeless now at Heathrow with three children,” she wrote.

“Have been for three days and watch people paying for business class tickets right in front of me!! 14, 11 and 1 year old it’s not right,” read the post, which has generated hundreds of comments.  

In July, the Australian government introduced a cap on international arrivals into the country, which has led to thousands of Australian citizens being stranded around the world.

Only around 4,000 international arrivals a week are permitted into the country at present, but Richardson claims she booked return tickets for her and her children before the new measures were implemented, according to a report by the Sydney Morning Herald.

Richardson’s situation was raised with Australia’s High Commissioner to the UK, George Brandis.

“This is obviously extremely troubling and no Australian should – or need be – in this position,” he tweeted on Sunday.

“If the individual has access to email, please ask that they email consular.lhlh@dfat.gov.au. If not, please DM the details and we’ll look into it urgently.”

On Monday, the Australian High Commission in the UK confirmed on Facebook that they had deployed a support team to Heathrow Airport.

“We’ve deployed an Australian High Commission support team to Heathrow Airport,” the post read. “They‘re helping to facilitate Australians returning home, and will deliver support in the event of disruption.

“It’s tough to head home right now: but we’re determined to help and support however we can.

“If you need the team, flag them down in Terminal 2 or Terminal 5.”

A further post published on 2 September promoted the existence of a hardship fund that existed for Australians stranded around the world.

The statement encouraged affected individuals to check their eligibility and apply.

When The Independent approached Heathrow Airport about Richardson’s predicament, a spokesperson said that Heathrow officials had been made aware of these reports, but that they “have not been able to locate this family.”

They added: “We have an airport Travel Care team that would usually be able to help out people in these situations.”

The Heathrow representative confirmed that they were double-checking with their operational teams for further information.

Qatar Airlines confirmed that Richardson and her three children were now booked on a flight back to Australia on 16 September.

In a statement to The Independent, the airline said: “Due to the restrictions on passengers travelling to Australian destinations, Qatar Airways can only carry a limited number of passengers per day to certain destinations. 

“While some governmental exemptions apply to these numbers, we must strictly adhere to these restrictions.”

“Qatar Airways analyses each flight based on a range of criteria, including compassionate and medical requirements, connecting flights, booking class, party size and commercial value,” it said.

“In order to ensure the continued viability of our operations to Australia commercial value of tickets sold must also be taken into consideration to be able to operate each flight.”

Qatar stated that it assessed each passenger’s situation on “an individual basis”, regardless of cabin class.

“We have been assisting many passengers with emergency/compassionate issues as first priority to help them get on a flight home to Australia as soon as possible. We continue to work closely with all our passengers to find alternative flights if they are unable to travel on their original intended flight.”


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