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SIGNATURE PAULA MAREE



THE RETURN OF INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL

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One year ago I said goodbye to an airline that I absolutely loved and thought that my Flight Attendant journey was over. Exactly one year and one day later my DREAM JOB came back to life with the announcement of the return of INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL!


On Friday the Australian government announced that they will be lifting the ban on international travel next month and I could not be more excited!

I was on a layover last week and then spent five hours sitting around Adelaide Airport on reserve on Tuesday morning. This is when I first got an inkling that international travel would soon return. Walking into the terminal at 6.30am I saw the international arrivals gate and got a familiar feeling in my stomach.


Five years ago I was working an a Flight Attendant for Tigerair. The crew and I would walk through that very gate after working the red eye flight home from Bali.

We then had a four hour wait on our connecting flight home to Melbourne so I got to know Adelaide airport all too well. Sitting in a café sipping my morning coffee five years on, I couldn’t help but reflect on what truly was the best year of my life! Scrolling through old photos on my phone, I couldn’t be more grateful to the Virgin Group for the incredible experiences they have given me throughout the years.


Flying to Bali every week with my best friends was a dream come true – let alone the fact that we were paid to be there!

We worked incredibly hard on the flights. But it was well worth it when we would all meet at the beach bar at our luxury hotel in Bali to enjoy a cold Bintang or a sweet sugary cocktail. We’d spend afternoons lounging by the pool, treat ourselves to massages at the local spa and indulge in delicious banquet dinners. All for half the price we’d normally pay back home. The crew and I became incredibly close and our customers would always comment on how happy we were. It really was hard to believe that we had landed such an incredible opportunity. We truly were living the high life!


Times have certainly been a lot more challenging in recent years and the coronavirus pandemic almost brought my Flight Attendant journey to end.

However, I feel so lucky to have been redeployed into a role at Virgin Australia and absolutely love being back in the air! Lockdowns are still posing a lot of restrictions on domestic flying here within Australia. Especially for those of us based in Sydney and Melbourne. Flying is my escape and even though most of my layovers are spent in hotel quarantine, it’s nice to have a reason to leave the house.


At the moment, a lot of us are stood down temporarily whilst we wait for our industry to recover. So the prospect of international travel restarting almost feels a little absurd.

You can only imagine my excitement when international flights went on sale again and ironically, it was that very same morning I was sitting there in Adelaide, still dreaming of my former Flight Attendant life! Searching Bali on the Virgin Australia website and seeing that tickets were once again on sale was such a surreal feeling. I sat there with a knot in my stomach.


Returning to Bali (for work) has been my dream ever since I stopped flying there, so I couldn’t help but pinch myself. Was my dream job really coming back to life?

I didn’t want to get too excited, but in my heart I knew in that moment that it really was a possibility! Later that same week, I returned home to Melbourne and was walking on the beach when my intuition kicked in and prompted me to check my phone. I googled ‘international travel’ and saw headlines posted 6 mins earlier. Our Prime Minister, Scott Morrison had just addressed the media. He announced that the ban on international travel from Australia would be lifted when we reach vaccine targets in November. Overcome with excitement, the biggest smile broke out on my face, butterflies filled my stomach and in a single moment I felt nothing but pure joy!


Australians have been isolated form the rest of the world for almost 18 months now and we have long been anticipating this announcement.

Everyone is in need of a much-needed break and I can’t wait for the airports to be busier than ever when the Australian borders finally reopen. Our return to Bali may still be six months away, but I can’t believe that by Christmas Virgin Australia will be flying internationally again! Our first destination is Fiji, a cluster of 300 idyllic islands in the South Pacific. I’ve never been lucky enough to visit these beautiful tropical islands, so I can’t wait to explore the local region on my layovers.


No doubt, coronavirus will continue to challenge us as our country reopens.

Case numbers are the highest they have ever been here in Victoria. And sadly Melbourne has just become the most locked down city in the world. But we are finally hitting the vaccine targets, which will ultimately become our ticket to freedom as Australians learn to live with the virus. The future of international travel will look a lot different as we reopen. But it’s a step forward and I can’t wait be a part of the revival!


Life really does work in mysterious ways. I never imagined that losing my job during the coronavirus pandemic would be the stepping-stone to restart my international flying career. I’ve not only landed a new role but also been blessed to have the opportunity to be a part of an amazing airline as we rebuild. Virgin Australia fell into voluntary administration when the pandemic first hit in early 2020. This time last year I made the heart-breaking journey to head office to hand back my uniform – and my wings. Needless to say, I am beyond excited that not only am I flying again – but I’m also finally jetting off on another overseas adventure five years on. The life lesson – NEVER GIVE UP ON YOUR DREAMS!


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