A Lord Sugar tweet about his recent flight into Sydney has angered scores of Australians stranded around the world who themselves are unable to enter the country.
Australia’s federal opposition seized on the tweet on Friday amid accusations a controversial policy to ease pressure on Australia’s mandatory hotel quarantine system was unfairly penalising economy travellers stuck overseas.
The 73-year-old Sugar tweeted on Thursday that he had arrived in Sydney the previous day on a flight with Emirates and he praised the Dubai-based airline.
“I’ve not travelled on a commercial airline for 25 years,” he wrote, suggesting he previously travelled by private jet. “Yesterday I travelled to Sydney with Emirates. I have never experienced service like it in all my life. It was fantastic.”
More than 27,000 Australians trying to return home are currently stranded around the world, with teams of diplomats even deployed to Heathrow airport last week to stop stuck citizens from camping there.
Australia’s federal and state governments on Friday agreed to increase the intake of international arrivals in coming weeks but only a few thousand per week.
I've not traveled on a commercial airline for 25 years. Yesterday I traveled to Sydney with @emirates . I have never experienced service like it in all my life. It was fantastic . both on the ground and in the air. Amazing. For the skeptics it was fully paid for not free.— Lord Sugar (@Lord_Sugar) September 16, 2020
Sugar travelled to Australia to host the filming of Celebrity Apprentice Australia.
The tweet attracted more than a thousand replies from frustrated Australians, complaining about the months of delays and cancelled flights they have faced in returning home.
We’re all desperate for our loved ones to visit from the UK but our borders are supposedly closed to everyone except returning citizens and permanent residents. How did you get round the red tape?— joanne mellor (@jomellor1) September 16, 2020
Sugar appeared unaware of Australia’s strict international passenger arrival caps, defending his trip by pointing out he is complying with the mandatory 14-day quarantine period.
“As tens of thousands of Australians wait to see if their airline tickets will be cancelled yet again, the Morrison government has seen it fair to grant an exemption to British billionaire Lord Sugar, allowing him to travel to Australia to film a reality television show,” Australia’s opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman, Penny Wong, said.
“Once again we see the Morrison government has one rule for the privileged few, while stranded Australians are told to ask for charity or to go to homeless shelters.”
Australia’s arrival caps, introduced in July then tightened shortly after to ease pressure on Australia’s mandatory hotel quarantine system, have meant only 4,000 passengers can enter Australia each week, with some flights limited to carrying as few as 30 passengers.
On Friday, it was agreed the limit would be increased to 6,000, but airlines have said this is not significant enough a boost to repatriate all of the tickets they have been forced to cancel as a result of the quotas.
Airlines frustrated at the caps have begun to publicly acknowledge they are cancelling the tickets of economy, and increasingly business class, passengers so they can use their limits for more expensive tickets and remain profitable under the caps.
As a result, flights are landing in Australia with as few as four economy passengers, while up to 26,000 seats a week across all passenger aircrafts that land in Australia are forced to be empty.
While 27,000 Australians have registered with the government their wish to return home, airlines believe there are as many as 100,000 stranded citizens, with at least 30,000 in the UK.
Citizenship law experts have also raised concerns the arrival caps are unconstitutional.