When I last visited Europe in 2019, I couldn’t have imagined that it would be three years before I made it back. I have been a regular visitor/researcher to Europe since I started graduate school in the mid-1990s. When I landed in Copenhagen today, I felt a sense of joy, but also a sense of caution. Few people are wearing masks, but COVID cases are low and hospitalizations lower. Weighing the risks, and seeing so many of our friends in Europe, we were encouraged to fulfill our son’s wish to celebrate his graduation from high school with a trip to visit family in Denmark and explore his Scandinavian roots. An added bonus is a trip to Lisbon, Portgual, where I will be attending the Conference of Europeanists.
My first international trip of the ongoing pandemic was a year ago, to Montréal, where I have taken a job at McGill University. I happened to be on the first direct flight from San Francisco to Montréal since the COVID shutdown and it showed — there weren’t enough staff to get passengers through the various checks in time to get to there flights, and most Air Canada flights were delayed that morning. Airlines were slow to rehire staff, and between the “great resignation” and ongoing illness, delays and cancellations have been a fact of life for those of us venturing back into international travel.
Our flight to Copenhagen, via Toronto, was no exception to the ongoing delays. I happened to wake up early Thursday morning to do some last minute packing when I saw that our flight was delayed by 2 hours, meaning we wouldn’t make our connection. Air Canada had already rebooked us on a flight for the next day, but it would mean an overnight stay in Toronto. After exploring other possible flights that were suboptimal, we went with that option. The original issue with our flight to Toronto was a security problem that left airport authorities unable to process about 80 staff who didn’t get to their flights for over 2 hours. We made it to Toronto about two hours after our original connection would have departed, and stayed overnight in a hotel near the airport. The next day, we arrived early at the airport in Toronto, only to find out that our flight to Copenhagen was also delayed because of a sick staff member needing to be replaced. The flight was further delayed by the late departure of the previous flight that was departing from our gate, the late arrival of the new crew, and various other factors that led to us ultimately departing at 8pm for a flight that was originally scheduled to depart at 5pm.
I am very happy to have made it safely to Copenhagen today, and I appreciate the staff who have had to suffer through the various issues that are causing the delays. This was a great opportunity for me to practice Radical Empathy! When we looked at the international arrivals board in the Toronto airport, nearly all of the flights were delayed, several were cancelled (particularly flights to the US), and we were left wondering if we had made the right decision, trying to fly at a time when delays are the rule, not the exception. In the end, we weren’t in a time crunch, we all made it through safely, and seeing family was ultimately worth it.
My advice to those who are planning any travel this summer, foreign or domestic, is to bring along your patience.