Friday, March 12, 2010
First I ought to put things into perspective. We've just had an overwhelming blessing in that my husband has been given a clean bill of health regarding his heart. In a time when many people are losing their jobs, he is still gainfully employed at a place where he honestly enjoys his work. We live in a lovely house in a beautiful corner of the world, we're sustained by faith, we're well-fed enough to be overweight, all our needs and many of our wants are being met. We have lovely neighbors nearby, dear friends all around the world, and loving, supportive family members. In so many ways, we are awash in abundance. I know that, and I'm grateful for it. And what I'm about to say next in no way diminishes any of that.
For most of the day I have vacillated between being absolutely livid and dissolving into tears. Because as of today, I've discovered that the trip to England -- the thing I've wished and planned and saved and waited for, for so many years -- is in jeopardy, and it's not because of anything we've done. Simply put, British Airways is anticipating a strike by cabin crew members, and we were unlucky enough to have booked our departing flight on a day that's likely to be affected by the upcoming strike. Our flight is, according to the website, "subject to possible disruption" and may be summarily cancelled at any time, apparently according to BA's will and pleasure.
Did I get this news from British Airways? It is to laugh! No, I first heard about this from Gretel, who saw it on the news and wondered whether it would affect our upcoming flight. I went to British Airways and looked it up, and sure enough, our flight was among those scheduled for possible cancellation.
Now in the United States, there is a rule of thumb regarding cancelled flights -- if the cancellation is the airline's fault, the airline will do what it can to make sure you don't end up stranded somewhere. In many cases the airline will even put you on a competitor's flight if necessary to get you to your final destination. But this rule does not apply to carriers operating primarily outside the United States, and British Airways is based in the UK. It does not adhere to this rule.
Instead of making sure its passengers are accounted for, BA is offering two options if a flight is cancelled: rebooking or a refund. In our case at least, neither option is sufficient. Rebooking the flight would play merry havoc with our schedule; Captain Midnight only has a certain number of vacation days off work. In any case we scheduled our trip during Miss V's spring break from school -- that way she could spend the week in Utah with her mother and extended family while we spent the week in London; we scheduled our separate flights to return to Seattle on the same day, so we'd be there for her when she returned. We will not push our trip forward a few days because it would mean leaving a thirteen-year-old girl alone and unsupervised in the house -- something that would frankly horrify her and us. Not an option.
Even if we chose to get a refund for the flight, we have already scheduled a homestay for the dates we planned to be in London; although we have informed the homestay agency of the issue, there is a very good chance we will have to forfeit the advance payment we made them if British Airways chooses to cancel at the last minute. Then, too, we purchased our tickets during a fare sale several months ago; purchasing another flight a mere fortnight's time from our desired travel day will in all likelihood be far more expensive than our current flight, not to mention that it will likely be difficult to find available seats on other carriers with so many people bailing out of British Airways flights.
I close my eyes and I can imagine the fog and drizzle of London in early spring. I can imagine walking through the green spaces of Kensington Gardens, along the west bank of the Long Water, and coming upon the statue of Peter Pan that I've always wanted to see in person. I can imagine standing on the Millennium Bridge and looking down into the waters of the Thames. I can imagine what the inside of the British Museum smells like, the quality of the light inside the Atrium. I can imagine the sounds of the Whispering Gallery inside St Paul's Cathedral. I can imagine renting a car and occasionally, hysterically reminding Captain Midnight, "Left... STAY LEFT!" as we drive out to see a dear friend I've never met in person.
I can imagine all these things and more. But I don't want to have to imagine them any longer. I want them to be real. And I don't know any more when, or even if, that's going to happen.