I am a 64 year old solo traveler in good health and I have been visiting Europe several times a year for the last few years. March is when I like to spend time in Rome, London, and usually somewhere else.
This year I decided to leave March 2nd for seven days in Berlin, twelve days in Rome, and seven days in London, returning March 29th. Since I usually spend time in London at the end of my trips, my practice has been to use Alaska Airline miles for the Anchorage – Seattle run (usually the most expensive part of the trip), a roundtrip ticket for the Seattle – London run, and separate tickets from London to wherever I happen to be going.
I left on March 2nd and I checked into my Berlin Hotel on the 3rd. For seven days I went here and there and it was business as usual. When I woke up on the 10th I checked my email to see an email from a friend saying I would not be traveling to Rome today – they just shut down all of Italy! Well that did not sound good, I love Rome and that was a big part of the reason for this trip, but I have been there before and I will be there again in the future so I just went with the flow. I booked an EasyJet flight to London and made plans to arrive at my hotel there earlier than I had anticipated. London was great, everything business as usual there, but I started thinking that I really was not planning on staying there that long, and with the disruption of international flights I decided to see if I could return to the US at an earlier time.
I called Virgin Atlantic to see if I could move my London – Seattle flight from the 29th to the 18th. Their customer service line said to expect a three hour hold time. After two hours on hold my call was dropped. I tried again with the same results. So the next day I rode the Underground to Heathrow, found Virgin Atlantic in Terminal three, and went to their customer service counter which was manned by two people. Although there was a line of people in front of me, forty-five minutes later my changes had been made and I was on my way.
The day before my flight was to depart I received an email saying I could check-in for my flight. Two hours after that I received an email that my flight had been cancelled and to call customer service to reschedule the flight. Well I was not going to call customer service for sure. I checked their available flights to the US and found eight possibilities, all being routed through LAX, JFK, or Atlanta. I figured I always hear negative things about LAX and JFK so Atlanta it was. With a two hour layover there for a flight to Seattle it would be tight considering I did not know what kind of enhanced screening might be involved in Atlanta. A quick investigation showed there were several later flights to Seattle should I need them. I rode the Underground to back Heathrow, went to the Virgin Atlantic Customer service desk and walked right up and explained that my original flight to Seattle had been cancelled and this is the routing I wanted. He booked it right away and five minutes later I had my tickets and went back to my Hotel. My flight was scheduled to depart at 9:20 with a boarding time of 8:20, which seemed early.
The next morning I arrived at the airport, checked in, and went looking for the gate. The departure monitor said the gate would be shown at 8:20. Promptly at 8:20 the gate was displayed and I headed off. At the gate there were staff ready to board me, they gave me several CDC forms to fill out, and I boarded the aircraft. I found my seat, stowed my gear, and sat down, and started working on the forms. There was a brief announcement that passengers should not fasten their seat belts as the aircraft was still being refueled!