A mother-of-three says she and her young family are stranded in one of the world's busiest airports, after being bumped off numerous flights from London to Perth.
Sheree Richardson posted a number of photos to her Facebook page, showing her children sprawled on the floor of Heathrow Airport after reportedly being bumped from a number of Qatar flights in favour of customers willing to pay for a business class fare.
"Homeless now at Heathrow with three children," Richardson wrote on the social media platform on Saturday, according to WA Today.
"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."
Thousands of Aussie travellers and expats are still stuck abroad, facing increasing difficulties getting home as Australia's strict limits on incoming arrivals continues.
In July, Australia's Federal Government shrunk the number of international arrivals allowed in capital cities per week, with just 350 permitted in Sydney, 500 each in Brisbane and Adelaide, and 525 in Perth. In Canberra and Darwin, limits on flights are decided by the jurisdictions on a case-by-case basis. There are no international flights into Hobart or Melbourne.
Currently, Australia's international border restricts airlines to carrying between 25 and 60 passengers per flight. This has intensified demand and seen prices skyrocket to as much as $10,000 a seat.
Stranded travellers have complained about getting bumped from flights multiple times, sometimes within hours of departure.
While Qatar Airways says Richardson and her family will be on a mid-September flight home to Perth, the airline has been forced to prioritise higher-paying passengers so they can stay profitable, sending mostly empty planes on the long and costly routes.
"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," a spokesperson said.
"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.
"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.
"However, each passenger's case is treated on an individual basis regardless of what cabin class they have booked. 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.
"Qatar Airways has been one of the few international airlines to never stop operating to and from Australia, helping carry over 180,000 Australians and international travellers home since the early stages of the pandemic, more than any other airline."
Richardson's situation was addressed with Australia's High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, George Brandis, on Twitter, who said their predicament was "extremely troubling".
"No Australian should – or need be – in this position," Brandis tweeted on Sunday.
According to WA Today, it is understood the family have now been moved to a hotel.
News.com.au has contacted Qatar Airways for comment.