If you read this blog frequently, you know that my son has had a planned trip to London since last year. I wrote about this in my last blog post here.
After many discussions, research and the existing environment on March 7th, Morgan and Quinn decided to go ahead with their trip carrying hand wipes and masks along with two backpacks of clothes and traveling “stuff”, and flew to London on Icelandair.
Morgan has flown on this airline several times overseas, and very much appreciates that they do not serve peanuts. This time, he and Quinn had no seatmates because of so many people altering their travel plans. They flew through Reykjavik and got on another flight into London without any problems, and started sight seeing immediately.
They continued sightseeing around London and enjoyed each day, visiting a Botanical garden, a cheese factory and walking the city. Then, on Wednesday evening in the USA, President Trump instituted a travel ban from European countries to be effective 48 hours later, on Friday, March 13 at midnight.
My husband and I almost fell off the couch when we read this notification! We knew that Morgan’s flight home from London went back through Reykjavik, and wondered what that was going to mean for him. We quickly messaged Morgan, knowing that he was likely asleep, and asked for a quick chat in about 6 hours when he would be awake Thursday morning. We got up at 3am to discuss options with him.
By then, it had been announced that US citizens weren’t included in the travel ban, which helped our anxiety calm down a little. Both Quinn and Morgan had been receiving multiple text messages from friends and other family members warning them about this travel ban. Quinn had been trying to get through to Icelandair since they had awakened, however all the phone lines were busy. At this point in England, there weren’t any travel bans; nothing had been closed; and there were less than 500 cases of the virus in the UK as a whole. So, Morgan and Quinn couldn’t quite understand why we were so nervous.
Meanwhile in the US, grocery stores were experiencing people purchasing food and toilet paper as if Armageddon was forthcoming. K-12 schools and school districts and colleges were shutting down, and/or going to online classes. Workforces were being told to telecommute. Every hour there was some new information to digest and to adjust to. We tried to explain all of this to them, and that we’ve never been at this place before with a pandemic affecting not just the US but the world. Given that they are grown men, and paid for the trip themselves, we didn’t feel it was appropriate to pull a “parent directive” to get home now! We believe in supporting our now grown children, and loving them through their choices and decisions. We agreed to talk later in the day before they went to bed Thursday evening.
About 12 hours went by and we spoke again. They still hadn’t been able to reach Icelandair. We began to talk about what other airlines could get them home to Denver if they never were able to reach the airline. What was a safe airline for peanut allergies? Who flies the route directly from London to Denver? We knew we didn’t want them going through a European country if they were traveling after Saturday at midnight ET because of the port of entry issues. Denver’s International Airport was not one of the airports receiving passengers from Europe, and ending up in another US city where they would need to find another flight home to Denver was just too much to contemplate with additional fees, food allergies to manage and potential overnight accommodations needed. They had looked into other airlines’ flight schedules, but many of the seats had been booked at exorbitant prices, and they really wanted to reach Icelandair before paying for another flight. We agreed that they would go to Heathrow airport Friday morning to see if they could get information directly from the Icelandair ticketing agents.
On our Friday morning, which was already after lunch London time, we texted with them. Morgan said the ticket agents were of no help. They had been given no information to pass on to customers, and had no idea if their original return flight going through Reykjavik would be able to land in Denver on Tuesday, March 17. Then as we were texting, Quinn was finally able to get through on the phone to Icelandair. Their flight had not been cancelled even though most other flights flying on March 14-16 had been. This sounded suspicious to my husband and me. How would they have a flight of all Americans and be able to fly directly to Denver? We were ready for them to give up on Icelandair, book a flight with another airline, and get out of London that day! We decided to continue to ask more questions. What happens if the UK is included in the travel ban in the near future? Do you have a backup plan? What happens if you end up in New York or Chicago? We knew that was going to cost money for them to then find a way home to Denver, and to find a safe, food allergy accommodating airline to do so. In the end, they decided to leave Heathrow and keep their reservation on Icelandair to fly home on March 17.
We were really concerned at this point, especially when they said that they were going to continue their trip schedule and travel to Scotland via train, a 4 hour ride, on Saturday morning, March 14 and spend the weekend there. They planned on returning to London on Monday to spend one night in the city before boarding the plane to come home. My husband and I were taking this one day at a time, and that day sure felt like about 48 hours in length. There was so much going on in the news, and our reality was so different from our son’s and Quinn’s.
Then, on Saturday, March 14, President Trump extended the travel ban to the UK and Ireland. My husband has a way of seeing some things that are coming, and he had a feeling this was going to occur. We just didn’t expect it so soon. The travel ban would go into effect on Monday, March 16 at midnight.
We texted with Morgan, who had already seen this information on the BBC. He said, “We will be continuing as planned but know potential changes are in store. Icelandair is posting a full flight list at least a day in advance so we will know, and they will keep us updated. More excitement to come! But we are having a blast in Scotland.” My husband and I are really worried. Their Tuesday flight is after the UK ban goes into effect, and we know they will be landing in a city other than Denver. And likely their flight is going to be cancelled altogether, because you can’t just change the destination city on a whim when flying an airplane.
There have been numerous times in our children’s lives when we have had to let go, and let them “do their life” even when we don’t agree with their decisions. This was one of those times. We were really concerned how Morgan was going to manage his food allergies, how the coronavirus screening was going to be managed, what airport he was going to be sent to, and what the cost was going to be for him to get himself home to Denver.
And then we awoke Sunday morning, March 15, to this message:
My husband and I were jumping up and down in tears, we were so happy! After seeing this message, we saw the pictures online of the enormous lines at the various US airports who were receiving the European flights after the European travel ban had gone into effect. Hundreds of people all crowded together in these long, snaking lines to have their temperature checked. We knew it would be a hassle to be sent to one of these 13 airports upon arrival in the US, but we had no idea it would also put all of these passengers at risk for the virus with a complete lack of social distancing. We were so glad that Morgan and Quinn wouldn’t be subject to that.
The British Airways flight was full when it took off from London 45 minutes late. Mama bear checked the online status to know when to expect his arrival in Denver. We were not going to meet him at the airport since we live 90 minutes away, and with the social distancing requirements that had been decreed in Colorado, we decided to follow the rules and await his text message.
As you can see, my husband and I were more than a little excited to have him back in Denver! In Colorado on Monday, March 16th, all restaurants were closed except for takeout and delivery. Most employers had gone to telecommuting workforces, and the Governor has asked for no meetings of people in excess of 10 persons in addition to shutting down all gyms and movie theaters. Morgan is working from home, and will be self-quarantining for the next week or two since he has been traveling abroad, but currently has no symptoms of the virus.
It was quite an experience to watch our world change so drastically within a week, and to have our son across the world in the middle of a pandemic. I’m very grateful to have him back in Denver!
I’m sure that Morgan will be providing a blog post about his travels and all that he has learned from this BIG adventure. Stay tuned for that in the near future!