On the day that the gal took the image above she was supposed to be flying from London Heathrow to Boston. She was, literally, all set to go, to visit luxury hotels in and around Boston, and New York, and see for herself the delights of the new Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia.
At 5.29 am this Monday, 16th March, I was waiting, in the dark, for my driver, the lovely Julia from A-Line, to take me what would be at least two hours to the airport. She arrived at 5.30, exactly. Thirty seconds before I finally made the decision. I was aborting, for the first time in this traveller’s life
The final straw was not only having all restaurants closed in at least two of my destinations, but Encore Boston Harbor was closing, entirely. All arrivals to the USA would be screened, at length. (Since then, there are rumours that President Trump will ban all domestic flights, and that Justin Trudeau will bar foreigners from entering Canada, and I was coming back via Montreal as US-UK flights would have ceased.)
So, how did I react? Shoes off, but back to bed, fully clothed, for an hour. Another cup of coffee, very strong. Change from all-black travel gear to today’s shades-of-pink at-home wear.
Called British Airways, merely to let them know I would not be on today’s flight, for which I already had my boarding pass. Much to my surprise and delight, I got a real person, who empathetically unchecked me, and gave me, at no cost, a delay on the same routing, any time in the next year. Superb customer service.
I started sending dozens of emails, cancelling everything (I had no idea I had planned such a jam-packed ten-day itinerary). Then it was time to hit the rest of the travel partners. There was no challenge with Amtrak, even though they will not let you proceed unless you input a telephone number. There are banners for ‘US’ and ‘International’, but they will not allow any international numbers actually to be put in. Back in the US band, I tried making up a number, 000 000 0000 but they would not take that. Eventually I had to put in a US-based friend’s number.
The nadir, the scourge of the entire travel experience, was Air Canada. I had intentionally booked AC for New York to Montreal, for number of flights and pre-conceived awareness of thoughtfulness (wrong). I booked direct with the airline (ibid, wrong again). I had paid extra for support, which never materialised. The airline site said reservations, even non-refundable, like mine, can be held over. All the site let me do, before I could stop it, was cancel my reservation and give me a paltry £4 return, on a £300+ ticket. There is no way you can telephone anyone. On Air Canada UK’s supposed 24/7 help line, I called at 5.10 pm to get a recorded message, ‘we are finished’. I found an Air Canada Media email – I wrote for the airline’s inflight magazine for ten years. I sent them a message. Nothing.
Oh well, for once the English sun was shining. I went shopping and bought a jigsaw, showing Dublin’s Temple Bar, a memory of what might be my last trip for some time. And we went for a drive to the sea, passing these cute little lambs, above and below, a mere five minutes’ from home. (Tomorrow, Girlahead will be back to sharing more Ireland thoughts)
WATCH THESE FRISKING LAMBS, BELOW