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The emergency trip home

(29 Posts)
BonApp Tue 14-Nov-17 12:33:28

I will have to do this at some point in the coming months sad

I'm not far (flight is 1.5hrs) but how does it work in practice? Do you get "the call" then grab a bag then head to the airport and get some help from someone there to book you a flight? Or do you faff around looking at the airlines online? Can you even book online at such short notice? What if there are no late flights???

Then when you're blubbering your way through the airport, do you just try to hold it together and not think about it? Or do you tell someone? Is there someone who can help in such situations?

I'm a good traveller and fly regularly, but always planned at least a a few days in advance and without being heartbroken but I can't get my head around the logistics of this journey.

habibihabibi Tue 14-Nov-17 15:09:49

This is what happened to me:
Got the very bad and totally unexpected news call when my unfortunately my passport was back in the UK in for renewal. Called the embassy who arranged emergency documents and rang the airline to ensure they would be accepted at both ends and the stop over of the 24 hour journey.
I booked the next available flight on agreed airline . Airline upgraded me and everyone was very nice.

steppemum Tue 14-Nov-17 15:27:38

So sorry to hear this.
Do some planning now
get a list of who flys when, and their last minute costs, also phone numbers
Have your paperwork in a handy place ready packed.

i would phone from home if possible to find out vacancies, tell them your circumstances, they may find you a flight. (crew tickets etc)

WorkingBling Tue 14-Nov-17 15:31:38

In our case, the flight is overnight and leaves in the evenings. On the day after we got the call, once we realised how serious it was, we booked flights online and then went straight to airport. It is worth ensuring your passport is accessible and up to date. If flight is relatively close, chances are there are plenty so you have time to look online (or call airline) and make preparations and then head to airport, taking a flight half an hour later or whatever if necessary.

However, one thing I will say, if you know it's going to happen, consider going now. Go while you can still see and speak to the person and spend time with them. I went but couldn't go for the funeral a few weeks later. It was devastating, but I am glad I went when I did and saw her.

OlennasWimple Tue 14-Nov-17 15:38:09

I haven't done this for myself (touch wood), but have arranged flights home for a friend who was in no state to be doing it themselves

"Bereavement flights" (ie cheap fares for people having to travel at short notice because of a death in the immediate family) are pretty much obsolete. Online bookings tend not to be available for flights leaving in 12-24 hours away, so you have to do it the old-fashioned way and go through a call centre or go in person to an office or the airport.

Make sure your passport is up to date (and ideally with at least 6 months to go, particularly if you are likely to have to transit odd countries on your way there or back)

Look into your options now: what is the latest flight that leaves every day? What is the quickest route? the cheapest? Are there alternatives, such as a flight to Paris and then the Eurostar? Partner airlines for anyone you have a gold frequent flyer card with? Knowing all this stuff in advance saves you messing around trying to get it straight in a hurry when your mind isn't really likely to be working at its best

LazySusan11 Tue 14-Nov-17 15:43:35

I did this, got a call and time was of the essence I had to book the next flight out and try and keep my head whilst I did it. I cried on the way to the airport, at check in and inflight. I didn’t care, you aren’t concerned about those around you only making sure you get home. I fly regularly so logistics were easy, the hard part was feeling like everything was going in slow motion when I was in a major hurry.

If you know this is coming, maybe pack a bag to leave ready and familiarise yourself with flight times, logistics etc. I’m sorry you’ll have to do this. flowers

SandLand Tue 14-Nov-17 15:48:23

Phoning rather than online (Tho sky scanner or similar may give you suggestions of flights /routes with seats), and explaining is the suggested method, tho we did get DH a flight within 24hr for long haul online.
Totally up to you if you wish to explain to crew or your plane neighbours or not. Think also about if you would travel alone or with someone, even if they literally drop you off and fly back.

But yes to booking a trip now if you can too.

BonApp Tue 14-Nov-17 15:50:45

Thanks all. I'm in Switzerland so flights between Geneva and London are plentiful and quick. It takes me approx 1hr to get to/from the airport each side.

I'm back and forth regularly at the mo but had huge delays on my last flight and it got me thinking about how it would all work.

Passport is fine and DH has it to hand easily.

I will investigate late flights on Skyscanner, that's a good idea, thank you.

The thought of the waiting around is awful.

Hopefully we have a few more months.

So sorry for those of you who've had to do this sad

Welshcake77 Tue 14-Nov-17 22:14:50

Sorry you're in this situation x when I had an unexpected call with bad news a few years ago, I booked the next flight by telephone. It was v expensive and I remember thinking afterwards I should have gone business for that price as at least I would have had a bit more privacy and been off the plane much quicker. Might be worth checking out.

How would you get home from the airport? Can you prep a friend who could be on standby to pick you up?

ksb76 Wed 15-Nov-17 00:48:56

I would also have a look at driving and eurotunnel routes so that in case of bad weather in Geneva I had a back up plan. If you got a call at 9pm, after the last flight had left, may be just as fast to drive to Calais and hop on a train to the south of the UK.
I like to have options so that I am not left waiting around and feeling out of control (control freak!).

Raven11 Wed 15-Nov-17 01:34:35

I've had to do this but between London and NY a few times. I'm lucky (as can be in these situations) because between the two cities and the 6 different airport combinations there's flights every few hours. I had to book my flight, pack, wait for cover and get the train from just outside the home counties at Noon, my flight was at 4, and I was in America on the same day. My recommendation is to use Google flights, I fly fairly regularly, and usually only a few weeks notice max and I always use google flights. Just remember to clear your browsing history and maybe practice using the site now as you can choose to have stop overs, cheaper return dates but most importantly you can sort flights by departure time. It is a stressful experience, but if anyone else has access to the internet get them searching google flights too, some airlines won't let you buy the ticket online if it's short notice so someone will have to faff around giving info to the airline over the phone- you don't need to do this, use this time to gather your things/get on the way to the airport/city.

I always just take hand luggage as that's less time either side as you don't need to get to the airport so far in advance- remember the only thing you need is your bank card and passport, everything else doesn't matter and can easily be bought if needed. This also means you don't need to faff about in security. On the way to the airport see if you can check in but I usually don't bother as nobody is queueing that the gate if it's late in the day and without luggage it doesn't take long. Just print screen all the flight info, your ticket etc so you can easily show whoever needs it at the airport- sometimes you won't be on the system but you'll have all the info they need.

If you're not planning on using your British bank/don't have an english bank, call your bank on the way to the airport with your travel dates so you can draw out money when you get into the UK.

Looking on Google flights, if you needed to leave Geneva ASAP, flights seem to be in plenty of supply every hour or so from 7am. I've had a look at airports in driving distance from Geneva but it looks like the airports anywhere near aren't 24/7 but it would still be quicker waiting through the night for the first flight than getting the train/driving.

I'm sorry BonApp you're going through this flowers and hope for the best possible outcome for you all flowers

Want2bSupermum Wed 15-Nov-17 01:50:09

Couple of things, I have had to fly back because my father was admitted to hospital. My siblings were unavailable so I flew back to sign paperwork for him to have surgery. I called the airline to book the flight. They were able to put crew on flight connecting through London giving me the seat. I paid a fortune but didn't care. My boss drove me to the airport because Uber car cancelled with me. I had no luggage only my handbag and a friend met me at the airport with my passports.

If you know the end is close do think about leaving soon so you can spend some time with your family. It's such a hard time but it's worth making sure those at home have support too. If it's your second parent passing you will also need to think about the will. If it's your first parent you need to think about supporting the remaining parent.

Want2bSupermum Wed 15-Nov-17 01:50:31

I'm so sorry you are going through this. flowers

stolemyusername Wed 15-Nov-17 03:10:35

I got ‘the call’ when I was 35 weeks pregnant and couldn’t fly anywhere, I had to do my goodbyes by text messages 😞

Laptopwieldingharpy Wed 15-Nov-17 07:41:32

Sorry you are going through this! Flights won’t b too difficult to find. It’s great if you can plan ahead to have a friend or two on standby so you don’t have to drive to and from the airport on your own.
I cried through 13h , a stopover and another 3h flight. You won’t mind what others think.
To echo what want2bsupermum said, think about the will and care of the surviving parent. Just small steps for the practicalities of the transition. Things fall into place eventually.
And spend time home now if you can. Be together. Important for everyone right now.

BonApp Wed 15-Nov-17 19:09:20

Thank you all.

It looks like Geneva flights stop at 9:40pm. So yes driving through the night could be an option as I'm not sure I could wait until the morning.

My DH is rubbish at booking travel stuff, he wouldn't know where to start. That's always been my job hmm so I expect it will be this time too.

I am popping home every couple of weeks for 3-4 days at a time which feels realistic / manageable for the time being.

Good point about getting airport pick ups ready. A taxi is pricey but do-able or I'm sure I could rope someone into picking me up.

I'm dreading what the new year is going to bring. It's my dad who's ill. Currently he's ok but the prognosis is short.

My parents are divorced, and my mum and stepdad are being supportive. My brother has temporarily moved back from living abroad elsewhere to be at home. My stepmum doesn't have children of her own and her family live a couple of hours away.

DH would probably stay here with the kids I would imagine. Then come back for the farewells.

It's all rather heartbreaking to be honest.

Big hugs to those of you who have done this already.

shhhfastasleep Wed 15-Nov-17 19:16:44

So sorry. This is tough. I was going to suggest a bereavement flight. But a pp says they are obsolete.
When my auntie died, mum got a massively reduced ticket to the funeral in Ireland. I even got a good rate to accompany her.
I’d put some money aside and have a bag packed ready.

shhhfastasleep Wed 15-Nov-17 19:28:06

I’d have a think about logistics once the flight lands. I’m absolutely certain that whatever the airline, the staff would try and help you. The overwhelming majority will get how you feel.
Look at trains as an alternative if you think the flights stop at night. A train to Paris or even just Lyon then a flight?

Katsite Wed 15-Nov-17 19:44:49

I remember a memorable layover in Milan airport chapel crying my eyes out for hours.
Wishing you a lot of strength.
In terms of practicalities I think everyone will be very supportive at airport etc.
And many people just turn up at car rentals etc

Weepingwillows12 Wed 15-Nov-17 19:50:53

So sorry you are having to plan this. One app that may help is Rome to Rio. It gives you all travel options and let's you consider different ways of getting places. Has flight times on it too.

temporaryname99 Wed 15-Nov-17 21:07:28

Bon App, so sorry you have to face this. But thanks so much for this thread. DFIL is on the west coast of the US, and not ill right now, but has numerous health issues and it is always in the back of my mind that DH will have to face that emergency journey one day and wondered how you go about it. Good to get everyone's experience on this thread.

Venusflytwat Wed 15-Nov-17 21:21:36

Make sure you have a credit card with a decent balance available.

Sorry OP sad

Want2bSupermum Wed 15-Nov-17 23:16:32

Actually bereavement flights are not dead. You need to provide proof to the airline and they give you a discount for United and SAS. DH is flying back to help his sister prepare for my BILs final months. Found out yesterday that he doesn't have long left and the paperwork isn't completed. It's going to be a very long weekend for everyone.

OlennasWimple Thu 16-Nov-17 00:10:12

Best wishes to your DH, Want2. These things are never pleasant, but being a long way away makes them even worse. sad

United scrapped bereavement fares in 2014

Alaska and Delta still offer a discount but admit that it isn't necessarily cheaper than making a regular booking (I think that the fares tended to be 5% or 10% off the regular price, which in the days before heavy discounting and fare comparison websites was more meaningful).

The more important information is that a number of airlines are prepared to be flexible about cancellation / re-booking charges if the changes are necessary due to the death or serious illness of a close family member, which is obviously helpful in some situations and can save $$$s

MountainDweller Thu 16-Nov-17 00:23:30

Hi BonApp, I was on one of your earlier threads, sorry things are not good. It’s so hard I know.

My Dad died suddenly in April and I had to do this.

I am also near Geneva, just across the border in France on the airport side. Are you flying to London? If so at least there are plenty of options.

I had no idea my Dad was ill at all - got the call that he was very ill on Friday evening having been in hospital for a week. They were hoping drs might be able to give him some treatment overnight and that things might improve. Was too late to get on a flight Friday night. Had a quick look for flights for next day. He hadn’t wanted family to tell me he was in hospital. I got another call on Saturday morning to say he’d deteriorated.

I started looking online for flights again, dithered for a bit, talked to brother and stepmum... but there was a flight with Swiss at 16.00 for CHF 66. I would have paid whatever it cost but it seemed like a sign. So yes you can book online up till quite close to flight time. While I packed DH booked flight, printed my boarding pass and bought me a Heathrow express ticket. From Paddington was 10 mins in a cab to UCLH. I was so anxious I was nauseous, I won’t lie, it was awful. I didn’t book the return as I didn’t know how long I’d be away, just booked a couple of days before returning.

(I was very lucky with my passport - we’d been in the U.K. only 2 weeks previously seeing DH’s parents, and I’d noticed my passport was due to expire in September. I’d planned to send it off on my return, it take 4 weeks, but for some reason I didn’t, otherwise I would have had to apply for an emergency travel documenting a Saturday morning! (I renewed in person on a later trip.))

Anyway, by the time I made it my Dad was heavily sedated so couldn’t talk but I talked to him. I spent 3 hours with him that evening and he died at 3am the next day. Apart from my stepmum we’d all decided to go home as the drs still felt he’d hang on for a few days. Now I wonder if he felt he could leave as all the family were there on the Saturday. I was glad I went over, it was awful but I would have felt worse if I hadn’t gone.

I wish I’d known sooner as I hadn’t seen him for a while, so I’m glad you have warning and have been able to spend time with him. DH’s Dad is also terminally ill (in fact we imagined he would be doing the emergency flight before me) so he has been visiting him regularly.

A friend got the call that her brother was dying late one night and was on the first flight out at 7am the next day. I’m not sure there are many circumstances where you would get there faster by car.

I guess more succinctly my advice re flights would be to keep an eye on prices in general so when the call comes you have some flights in mind. And don’t discount more expensive airlines as sometimes you can get lucky with a fare. Maybe have a bag packed (include some snacks - important to keep eating!) so you can make a quick getaway if needed. And yes think how you would get to the airport. If you need to leave your car there the valet parking at the world trade centre is no more expensive than the long term parking. If you were stuck I would offer you a lift if you were nearby!

I didn’t tell the cabin crew on the way to the U.K. but did on the way back (easyjet) as I found it hard leaving my mum and couldn’t stop crying. They were very kind and gave me free hot chocolate!

Sorry I have rambled a bit, hope some of it was helpful. PM me if you would like some extra local support, or just a chat.

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