Australians stranded overseas due to COVID-19: Scammers target Aussies with flight offers

The federal government's Smart Traveller service has issued a warning to Australians stranded overseas after reports scammers are targeting them by offering flights home.

A post on the Smart Traveller website said Australians were being contacted by someone claiming to be from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), offering flights and requesting credit card information.

"DFAT will never request payment over the phone. If you receive a call from someone claiming to be from DFAT seeking payment for one of these flights, please hang up," the post warned.

There are more than 34,000 Australians stranded overseas, unable to get home due to the cap on numbers in hotel quarantine.

The cap was slashed in half two weeks ago, from 6070 to 3035 a week, further reducing the opportunity for stranded Australians to get home. Some flights into Australia arrived with no passengers on board when the reduced cap took effect.

The cost of flights also skyrocketed, with one-way economy class flights from London currently costing more than $13,000, , as airlines look to justify the cost of flying 300-seat aircraft with fewer than 30 passengers on board.

The federal government's Border Force has been criticised for continuing to allow more than 10,000 Australians to leave the country each month on short-term trips, even as stranded Australians wait for months for the opportunity to come home.

During the announcement of the reduced cap, Prime Minister Scott Morrison also promised more government-sponsored repatriation flights through Qantas, with priority going to vulnerable Australians.

Qantas is not currently flying any regular commercial flights internationally, with the exception of routes to New Zealand (though these have been greatly reduced since the suspension of the travel bubble).

Passengers on board the repatriation flights were to be placed in the quarantine facility at Howard Springs, near Darwin, for 14 days.

Australians concerned about the scam have been advised to contact DFAT online or call the Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305.