Tsawwassen couple recounts COVID-19 travel nightmare

“At least you are not trapped in a third-world country.”

That’s the response a Tsawwassen couple received from an embassy official in Hawaii as they tried for two months to get back home.

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Caught up in the COVID-19 pandemic, what was a wonderful, annual trip for retirees Maryanna and Steve Carlsen, turned into an anxiety-filled travel nightmare trying to get out of Maui and back to Canada.

“We were stuck for two months because we couldn’t get a flight out. They cancelled our flight eight times,” said Maryanna. “They were cancelled several times by several airlines. I called the Federal Government and someone contacted me from Honolulu and I believe it was someone from the Australian embassy working with Canadian officials and she said the choice was to buy another ticket from another airline.”

Maryanna said she told the officials that they had already bought tickets with WestJet and Air Canada.

“I again told her that I was not being reimbursed for these flights. The airlines gave us a voucher, but who wants to travel in these times,” she said. “I’ve got money invested and if I don’t travel then I lose it. We had two extra months we had to stay there, so that’s $2,000 a month rent and she tells me, ‘you are not in a third-world country.’

Maryanna said she fully realized that, but their insurance had expired, and Steve’s medication was running out…all raising their anxiety levels of the situation they were in.

“You just can’t go to a doctor and get a prescription refilled and since our insurance expired, we couldn’t get it renewed because we were out of the country,” she said. “It’s very expensive. We were desperate. We were in so much stress because we had no idea when we could leave.”

Eventually the couple was able to get back to their home on May 9 after getting through the quarantine protocols.

“We tried in March to get back and then all the cancellations with the flights,” she said. “You would think as a Canadian citizen you would get some help. There were so many people stranded in Maui…we were not the only ones…all were Canadian citizens. Why could they [government] not get a plane together and get us out? Talk to the airlines and make sure all the Canadians are on one plane and they are able to leave. They [government] should have done something.

“You think that being a Canadian is a privileged, which I still do, but you pay taxes and your government should do something for you.”

Now the couple is out all that additional money for the cancelled flights and the extra rent costs.

“We plan these trips very frugally,” she said. “I felt very disappointed in our government. We could not predict COVID-19, no one could, but it kind of opens your eyes to certain things.”

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