I was hoping that at this time I would be writing a blog about saying ‘good-bye’ to a place that I’ve lived for the past four months, but thanks to the weather and Heathrow airport, I have been forced to postpone that farewell and that blog…
So, instead… it’s 7:15 a.m., Sunday the 19th of December. The sun hasn’t even risen yet, but I arrive at Heathrow Terminal 5 in hopes of being able to fly out to Chicago in approximately four hours on my British Airways flight. It has been five months since I was in the US and I’m extremely excited to return after an unforgettable semester abroad in England. After already having my bus canceled and being forced to spend big pounds to take a taxi all the way from Cambridge, I am slightly eager to discover if my flight is still scheduled. The detrimental snowfall has ceased more than 12 hours ago so surely my flight is still able to take off, right? Not the case. Minutes after arriving at the airport, a woman announces over the PA system that every flight arriving and departing from Heathrow Terminal 5 has been canceled, with the exception of a handful of extremely fortunate flights. I look around at utterly shocked faces, all of whose somber expressions reveal their disappointment. I, too, am in disbelief.
BA 295: “Contact your airline”, so I’m told by the departure screen. Once getting over the initial shock of having my long awaited route home canceled, I make an attempt to call the British Airways’ phone lines that an airport representative had given me. Unfortunately the lines are busy and I am not able to get through. I then try the other number I was given. Unsurprisingly, it’s the same story. “Due to the high volume of calls at this time, we are unable to take your call.” Unfortunately, that’s been the theme of my week. After storing two of my large suitcases in the terminal’s baggage storage for 16 pounds a day, I made my way to a hotel near the airport that a family friend had been kind enough to book for me while I attempted to get a hold of the airline to rebook. As I sat in the lobby with numerous other frustrated passengers who had also been unfortunate enough to decide to fly on this day (or this week), I tried over and over again to reach British Airways as I waited several hours to check-in to my room. I quickly lost count of how many times I attempted calling or how many hours I spent waiting to get through to an agent, but at the end of the day I knew it was a hopeless cause.
I’ve traveled numerous times before in my life and throughout this semester abroad, but not much could have prepared me for this. It has been the ultimate test of patience and flexibility as I must now wait until late Friday afternoon to fly out, all while hoping and praying that this white powder from the sky and these brutal temperatures do not cause further disruptions and cancellations at Heathrow. The very thought of spending Christmas at Heathrow makes my stomach turn. I’m just one of several thousands of people stranded in England right now, however. The terminals at Heathrow are full of people who have been forced to sleep at the airport as they desperately wait to get to their intended destinations. I can consider myself extremely fortunate to have an extremely hospitable family friend to stay with outside of London while I impatiently wait with everyone else for Heathrow to clear the runways and for this situation to improve.
Despite the disappointing end to my semester in England, I’m determined not to let things end on a sour note. I’m happy for the people who have managed to make it home safely, but all I can ask is that they either cross their fingers or pray that the rest of us can make it back soon too! England is great, but it is Christmas time and everyone affected by flight cancelations most likely shares my sentiment in saying that all we want for Christmas is to be home. Did you hear that, Heathrow?
Also, airing the following commercial is not exactly comforting for the thousands of passengers stranded at this very airport and terminal. Hopefully we will all be at our own desired destinations soon, and when that happens, I guarantee you we won’t need a large crowd to gather and sing ‘Welcome Home’ in order to feel happy about being home!
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