To help me get my two suitcases and whatever else I managed to acquire during this past semester–and because I convinced them this was the perfect time for the long-awaited trip to Europe–my parents had booked a tour of Europe. At the end of my classes I was supposed to fly to Rome to meet them. Heathrow had other ideas.
My first flight out was cancelled because Heathrow closed right before I boarded a train to get to the airport. In disappointment, I called my parents who had landed in Rome to let them know I would be late. There had been about four inches of snow in London two days before causing Heathrow to close. To be completely honest, I expected problems with this flight out. London doesn’t know how to handle snow, as I learned during the semester with major tube delays and cancelled trains and closed airports whenever there had been snow. I went back to my flat, booked a new flight, and went back to bed. Two days later I expected Heathrow to have reassembled itself. I was flying to Italy, a warmer place, and most flights were leaving now. Right before I got out the door this flight was cancelled as well.
The British Airways customer service line was far too busy to handle my multiple calls. Instead of sending me to an answering machine or asking me to email or giving some avenue to vent frustration, my call was cut off each time. With mounting frustration, I looked for a new flight. Their line opens at 6am and has the option to book a flight or ask a question as well as an option to ask for flight information and one for miscellaneous problems.
The first option at 6am leads to a recording that tells you to call back at 7:30 when their offices open and then hangs up on you. Thank you, British Airways, for a completely useless customer service line. Why have it available so early in the morning if you aren’t going to man it?
The problem: my parents were on a tour and constantly changing locations, Christmas was quickly coming, tickets were getting harder to find and more expensive. The next flight I could book to meet them was to Switzerland and it cost me a fortune. I was now flying out the 23rd of December. With all the hope I could muster and a lighter bag to represent the days I had missed, I traveled to Heathrow.
I made it through security and waited patiently for my gate to be posted. And then, to my horror, my flight was listed as delayed by about two hours. With a deep breath and a pep talk, I headed to a store to get some food and tea. An hour and a half later and texts from some friends with moral support led to the news that I should talk to my airline. My thought: Oh, please, no. I just want to meet my family for Christmas!
The plane and crew got stuck in a snowstorm. I was rebooked and put in a hotel. I walked into my hotel room and actually wished for tears to come. I can’t cry unless someone else starts but tears would have been so therapeutic right then. For five minutes I stood in the middle of the hotel room and just wished for a way to let go of the frustration and anger and sadness at being thwarted so many times.
Four flights and three cancellations later I made it to Zurich and met my family at 5:30pm on Christmas eve.
Cancellations suck and getting stuck during the holidays can easily be a nightmare. But I made the most of my extra six days. I went to museums I had missed in London. I went to see places and visit restaurants I had missed. Regents Park is beautiful when covered in snow. Those flats look gorgeous. And outrageously expensive. I managed to enjoy the extra days I had to say goodbye to everyone. I am grateful now for the extra time I had to really say goodbye.
Now I am on a flight back to JFK, back to the USA and everything that comes with it, without everyone that I just met. JFK just got about 20 inches of snow a day or two ago. I had already started planning extra trips for my parents in case we had to go through what I did just a few days before. London’s reaction to snow will forever baffle me.
And if I am ever there again, I am not flying out during the winter.