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When your telephone rings at 2:15 a.m., it is a secure bet the news isn’t very good. Turns out the odds are even better when you’re an American touring abroad amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The voice on the other finish was our daughter, wanting to make certain my wife and I had heard that “President Trump just banned all vacation from Europe!” No, we had not heard that, mainly because we have been sound asleep in the rented Paris apartment where we had been keeping the week, intending to return to New York on Saturday.

Now, all at the moment, our designs threatened to be upended. We clicked on the Television and checked Twitter. It did, in truth, appear that the president was putting a sweeping ban in place, setting up midnight Friday.

I jumped on the internet and frantically experimented with to adjust our Saturday flight to one thing faster, but our makes an attempt to rebook or cancel would not go via. We known as the client company amount and had been informed the wait around time to communicate to a representative was 4 hrs.

Concerned about missing what appeared to be a looming deadline to get back again household, we started seeking for new tickets — devoid of getting canceled the outdated kinds. It was straight away noticeable that, significantly less than an hour after Mr. Trump’s pronouncement, swarms of other anxious travelers have been attempting to do the identical thing. We’d click on an airfare, only to locate it was “no longer out there.” It was like striving to capture a firefly that hovered ahead of you for a moment and then winked out before you could grab it.

What was remaining had been increasingly oddball flights — 31-hour treks on airlines we’d in no way read of — and a smattering of extremely highly-priced ones. Very same-working day overall economy tickets from Paris to New York appeared for thousands of dollars apiece. Mainly because my credit score card’s vacation gain has a 24-hour cancellation plan, I took the plunge and used it to get two primary a single-way tickets that, blended, cost a lot more than $5,000. We rationalized the price by figuring if we have been inevitably able to get a much better deal by shifting our original tickets, we could however get our income again for these new kinds.

No faster did I strike the “purchase” button than an update appeared on CNN: President Trump’s vacation ban did not include People in Europe immediately after all, only overseas nationals. Whipsawed, we scrambled to cancel the tickets we experienced just bought — and quickly found it difficult. Cancellation possibilities on the net were being both unavailable or did not perform, and the airline’s wait time for callers was now up to six hrs. And my credit history card consumer support line played music for two several hours prior to disconnecting.

We made the decision on one final perform: Get to the airport and consider to terminate, in individual, by a ticket agent. We packed up, assuming that if our scheme did not get the job done, we’d have to determine on the place no matter if to choose the flight and be performed with it. A 45-minute Uber journey afterwards, we have been at Charles de Gaulle Airport, staring at an impossibly lengthy line of travellers beseeching harried ticket agents for help. It was clear that in the several hours it would consider to at last get to the consumer services counter, our flight would have presently still left.

We debated what to do. Hunting all around at the increasing chaos that seemed destined to intensify in the coming days, we swallowed tricky and pulled out our gold-plated economy tickets. The agent who checked our baggage said we ended up not by yourself, describing that he experienced just listened to from a gentleman who experienced gone on-line previously that early morning and paid out “$20,000 for economic system tickets” and was now attempting to terminate them. The agent did not know if the passenger was effective.

Fortified with that tale of another person else’s woe, we boarded the flight to New York, joining other frazzled Us citizens, wiping down seat armrests with sanitizer and pondering if being house would truly be any safer than remaining away.

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