“Flight’s still there!” He said with excitement as he checked the website. “I’m checking in!”
“Oh. No, wait.” He scrolled. “Why is it showing another flight, too, to Sacramento? And one from there to Chicago? But it’s before my flight leaves Vancouver.” He checked again. “Wait, it’s the next day.”
And that’s the way it goes in the time of COVID. The flights that had suddenly changed were the fourth or fifth set that Scott had made in his attempt to get home. Sometimes the website would show the flights as still valid, after a text message had notified that they were canceled. Or a notice said they were attempting to reroute, but no new flights appeared. Trying to change or cancel the flight on-line resulted in either a crash of the site or a message that said changes must be made by phone. Sometimes the phones weren’t answered, and there was always a message, no matter the airline, that said, “Due to high volumes, if your flight is not within the next 72 hours, please call later.” Sometimes you went into endless limbo; other times they would not even put your call on hold.
It improved after the first weekend of a closed border had passed. Scott found the work around of calling through the frequent flyer line instead of the main airline number. The agents were helpful and even kind, as they tried and tried to find alternate flights. Every call ended with the new universal closing phrase, “Stay safe.”
I was worried about him travelling through so many airports, on so many planes to a location that, rightly or wrongly, I considered less safe. I made him a cloth face mask and gave him my only hand sanitizer, a small travel bottle that I had found in a drawer.
Too early Friday morning, I drove him to the airport. There was no place to get coffee. Lines on the floor marked safe social distancing in the security queue. It was a very strange feeling to not be the one going through to get on a plane, to be the one left behind.
Scott made it home safely to the eastern States, with good connections and no delays. He sent me pictures of almost empty planes and airports. In the third airport, he finally found a coffee place that was open.
I know I won’t be flying for a while. My year of travel seems unreal, and somehow so long ago, even though it only just ended. I wonder how it will be different in the future, and if the companies that hold my credits for canceled flights and tours will still be around when we can once more travel freely.
But for now, I stay home. Stay safe, everyone.